Human error inevitable – so is a spill

Raised in Kitimat and now living in Smithers, Greg Brown is an environmental consultant who has worked on energy issues for the past decade.

Raised in Kitimat and now living in Smithers, Greg Brown is an environmental consultant who has worked on energy issues for the past decade.

And, he told the crowd at the recent Enbridge educational forum, he regards the Northern Gateway project as “a risky experiment”.

Brown said the issue was the introduction of a “massive export pipeline and very large crude carriers (VLCCs) to the BC coast.”

It was also about the people who called this region home because, “We are the ones taking the risk of the inevitable oil spill.”

Why did he say it was inevitable? “Because people make mistakes.”

Brown pointed to the Exxon Valdez spill as one example of just that.

“The consequences were devastating. Jobs were lost, fisheries collapsed, there were major social problems such as alcoholism and suicides,” he said.

And 20 years later oil still persisted in beaches in the area.

The Michigan spill last year into the Kalamazoo River was an example of human error making a bad situation worse.

“For 12 hours this pipeline gushed oil while the company turned it on and turned it off because it misinterpreted the information they were receiving in the control room in Edmonton,” Brown said.

It was finally shut down after a farmer reported oil running in a ditch on his land which ran into the Kalamazoo..

“In this case the alarms were working but the people were not,” he added.

And more than a year later they were still clearing oil off the bottom of the river “because this was unconventional oil and it sunk.”

Brown asked people to consider what would happen in the case of a rupture of the Northern Gateway line which ran through remote areas. “There’s no one around in the middle of the night to call 911.”

The Queen of the North slamming into Gil Island was another case of human error and the people of Hartley Bay were still reporting diesel fuel coming up from the wreck.

Brown pointed out that site was “very close” to the route Enbridge wanted to bring the VLCCs through, adding these 1,100ft. tankers were five to sic times larger than the vessels that you saw in the Douglas Channel today.

On double hulled vessels, Brown con ceded they were good for minimizing oil spillage in the case of “minor groundings and low energy collisions.

“However, they were not the saviour Enbridge makes them out to be.”

In the case of a collision between a tanker and a barge that he highlighted, 11,000 barrels were spilled.

Brown emphasized the bitumen the Northern Gateway line would be carrying was different from conventional crude.

“Raw and in the middle of winter, it has the consistency of a hockey puck,” he said. “It is very acidic – 15-25 times more – it’s 5-10 times more sulphuric, it contains course sand particles that are abrasive, it is 70 times thicker than conventional crude and it’s full of heavy metals,” he said.

And the pipeline system has to run at two-and-a-half times the pressure of a normal line to push the diluted bitumen through.

Noting the Alberta pipeline system has been handling bitumen more than anywhere else on the continent, Brown said, “They are finding…they fail 16 times more frequently due to internal corrosion than the US pipeline system.

“That’s why [Northern Gateway] is a risky experiment.”

Acknowledging there were people in Kitimat who, in the wake of industry closures here, talked about the number of jobs the project would create, Brown suggested Northern Gateway would create fewer jobs than they think.

He said he had been told about 25-32 people currently worked at the Cenovus (former Methanex) site handling one tanker of condensate a month, adding that facility would be obsolete once Enbridge started importing condensate.

So while Enbridge said there would be 52 jobs for Kitimat, Brown said you had to subtract the lost jobs at the Cenovus terminal, leaving just a 25-27 net gain in employment.

Against that, he pointed to about 11,000 full time equivalent jobs related to marine harvest on the coast, including fishing, fish processing and aquaculture.

“Your voice matters in this,” he said in closing. “If you think this is not the right project for Kitimat…then I ask you to join others and voice your opposition.”

 

 

 

 

(Next week, in the fourth and final installment on the Enbridge forum, highlights of the one hour question period that followed the presentations.)

 

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Alexander Erikson's award-winning piece, The Provider, on display at the Kitimat Museum and Archives (Photo Frieda Design School)
Kitimat Museum and Archives host Freda Diesing school art exhibition

Local Kitimat art exhibition from students of the Freda Diesing School of Northwest Coast Art

Security has been stepped up at both Kitimat General Hospital in Kitimat, pictured here, and at the Mills Memorial Hospital in Terrace. (File photo)
Stillbirth reaction leads to more hospital security

Staff, physicians facing threats and harassment

Workers at Kitimat General Hospital were presented with a large variety of food packages in appreciation of the last year of dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. The donations came via local Epicurean representative Kerri Weightman who collected money for the purchases. (Jacob Lubberts photo)
Hospital workers receive food donation

Workers at Kitimat General Hospital were presented with a large variety of… Continue reading

(Phil McLachlan/Capital News)
Murder charge laid in February 2020 stabbing death of Smithers man

Michael Egenolf is charged with the second-degree murder of Brodie Cumiskey

Island Health chief medical officer Dr. Richard Stanwick receives a first dose of Pfizer vaccine, Dec. 22, 2020. (B.C. government)
COVID-19: B.C. seniors aged 90+ can start to sign up for vaccination on March 8

Long-term care residents protected by shots already given

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C. on the COVID-19 situation. (B.C. government)
Dr. Bonnie Henry predicts a ‘post-pandemic world’ for B.C. this summer

‘Extending this second dose provides very high real-world protection to more people, sooner’

Malawian police guard AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines after the shipment arrived in Lilongwe, Malawi, Friday March 5, 2021. Canada is expecting its first shipments of AstraZeneca vaccine next week. (Associated Press/Thoko Chikondi)
B.C.’s daily COVID-19 cases climb to 634 Friday, four more deaths

Currently 255 people in hospital, 66 in intensive care

A crashed helicopter is seen near Mt. Gardner on Bowen Island on Friday March 5, 2021. Two people were taken to hospital in serious but stable condition after the crash. (Irene Paulus/contributed)
2 people in serious condition after helicopter goes down on Bowen Island

Unclear how many passengers aboard and unclear where the helicopter was going

Surrey Pretrial in Newton. (Photo: Tom Zytaruk)
B.C. transgender inmate to get human rights hearing after being held in mostly male jail

B.C. Human Rights Tribunal member Amber Prince on March 3 dismissed the pretrial’s application to have Makayla Sandve’s complaint dismissed

Supporters rally outside court as Pastor James Coates of GraceLife Church is in court to appeal bail conditions, after he was arrested for holding day services in violation of COVID-19 rules, in Edmonton, Alta., on Thursday March 4, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
‘Law remains valid:’ Pastor accused of violating health orders to remain in jail

The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms is representing the pastor

The Netflix logo on an iPhone. B.C. delayed imposing sales tax on digital services and sweetened carbonated beverages as part of its response to COVID-19. Those taxes take effect April 1, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Matt Rourke
B.C. applies 7% sales tax on streaming, vaping, sweet drinks April 1

Measures from 2020 budget were delayed due to COVID-19

Chief Don Tom of the Tsartlip First Nation was outraged after Green MLA Adam Olsen revealed on social media that the community had been experiencing a COVID-19 outbreak – a fact the First Nation had chosen to keep private to avoid racist backlash as experienced by the Cowichan Tribes when an outbreak was declared there in January. (Black Press Media file photo)
B.C. First Nation ‘outraged’ after Green MLA reveals COVID-19 outbreak

Tsartlip First Nation chief shares concerns about racist backlash, MLA apologizes

A lawyer wears a face mask and gloves to curb the spread of COVID-19 while waiting to enter B.C. Supreme Court, in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, Aug. 28, 2020. British Columbia’s highest court has sided with the land owner in a dispute over public access to public land. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. high court finds in favour of large landowner in fight over access to pair of lakes

The Nicola Valley Fish and Game Club launched legal action after the cattle company blocked road and trail access

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau holds a press conference in Ottawa Friday, March 5, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Trudeau holds firm on premiers’ health-care funding demands, COVID-19 aid comes first

Premiers argue that the current amount doesn’t keep pace with yearly cost increases of about five per cent

Most Read