Dix condemns Enbridge after scathing US report

The US National Transportation and Safety Board released their findings of Enbridge's handling over a 2010 oil spill in Michigan.

Sean Glanville

The US National Transportation Safety Board released their report on Enbridge’s handling of the massive June 2010 oil spill on the Kalamazoo River in Michigan Tuesday morning.

“Enbridge’s failure to exercise effective oversight of pipeline integrity and control center operations, implement an effective public awareness program, and implement an adequate post-accident response were organizational failures that resulted in the accident and increased its severity,” read the report.

Provincial NDP leader Adrian Dix was available to media for a conference call Tuesday to discuss the findings in regards to the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline project. “The long term effects for the people of Michigan and the Kalamazoo River will be felt for a long time and have been serious in terms of health, the environment,  and the economy,” said Dix. “Here in BC those risks to us have to be part of the process.”

NTSB Chairman Debbie Hersman described Enbridge’s handling of the spill resembling the “Keystone Cops,” referring to the fictional early 20th century silent films featuring incompetent policemen.

The report takes direct aim at Enbridge for it’s poor handling of the Michigan spill which total cost has now exceeded more than $800 million US, by far the most costly spill on US soil. This prompted the US Dept. of Transportation to propose a $3.7 million fine earlier this month. When you do the math a $3.7 million fine on an $800 million spill is less than one percent of the total cost, and Enbridge still has the right to challenge the fine. This begs the question, Who will pick up the cost if a spill were to occur along the Northern Gateway pipeline?.

One of the major red flags was Enbridge’s internal warning systems failure which saw the pipeline leak for over 17 hours before a local gas utility worker alerted them. If a leak were to occur along the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline can BC residents expect a similar reaction time?

Dix also called on Premier Christy Clark and the BC liberal government to get off the fence regarding the pipeline. He was also dumbfounded as to why the Liberals chose not to present evidence to the joint review panel prior to the January, 2012 deadline, accusing them of ‘hoarding’ evidence .

“It’s not just that the liberal government of BC has failed to take a position, they actually missed the deadline for evidence,” says Dix.  “It seems unbelievable given the stakes for BC that a government has failed to take any steps to introduce evidence as to those risks.”

The NDP leader was adamant that despite missing the deadline, the evidence must still be presented.

“The BC government has simply been absent without leave,” says Dix. “It is not understandable to me how this can happen, even though they missed the deadline the evidence for BC has to be presented now.”

The focus of the US report is for stringent environmental regulations on pipelines while the provincial Liberals and federal Conservatives are lowering environmental standards. “We need more stringent and direct environmental regulations, what we have in this country is a government at the national level and here at the provincial level going in the opposite direction,” said Dix.

Dix referred to this easing of environmental standards at the national level, noting it was less than two years ago that a federal environmental review panel rejected Taseko Mines’s Prosperity project (gold-copper mine near Williams Lake) in November, 2010.

“In recent times we saw the environmental reviews over the Prosperity project and the higher standards at the national level than we do here in BC.”

The future is looking bright for the NDP as Monday’s Angus Reid poll has the NDP at 45 percent support in BC compared to 23 percent Liberal and 22 percent Conservative. Dix made it clear what the NDP would do about the pipeline if they emerge victorious in next year’s provincial election on May 14, 2013.

“If after the election we receive the support from the people of BC and win, the position for the government of BC would change the day after,” said Dix.

 

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