About two-and-a-half dozen people attended Douglas Channel Watch’s meeting Wednesday, set to educate people on the 209 conditions on the Northern Gateway Pipelines project.
Or more specifically the 209 conditions as laid out by the Joint Review Panel for the proposed project.
DCW opted to host the community meeting in order to set a base of understanding ahead of a plebsicite in Kitimat which asks residents what their opinion is of the JRP’s conditions, and whether people are in favour or against them.
Cheryl Brown, Murray Minchin and Dave Shannon each gave their perspectives on the conditions at the evening meeting, from an overview of the JRP report, to specific comments on their feelings on the report.
Organizers didn’t hide their distaste for the plebiscite question itself, but did encourage people to vote on it regardless.
“The way I’ve been looking at it, it’s been written on smoke and deposited on mirrors, because even though there are 209 conditions, some of them are really flacid, there’s no real stringent ones, but they can change them at a whim at any time,” said Murray Minchin ahead of the meeting.
He refers in particular to the first condition, which states: Northern Gateway must comply with all of the certificate conditions, unless the NEB otherwise directs.
That clause at the end worries him that the conditions aren’t firm, so why should the community vote on it.
“So as a community we’re voting on something that is of no consequence. It won’t exist in its present format that we’re voting on in the future, so why even vote on it?”
He calls it unreasonable that the average Kitimatian should have to vote on the 209 conditions rather than a more concise question on whether people want the project or not to be built here.
“The question is absolutely unreasonable because even Enbridge didn’t understand the conditions and would have to step back and consider them awhile, so how can you expect anybody who hasn’t gone over all the conditions to actually vote on them?” asked Minchin.
As for specific concerns, he worries about a condition that requires Enbridge to file a report that they are going to hire temporary foreign workers 14 days in advance, rather than conditions which limit such hiring.
Minchin says voting yes on the plebiscite in Kitimat “will be voting in favour of temporary foreign workers and exporting thousands of Alberta refining jobs overseas.”
To that claim though Enbridge Northern Gateway’s Communications Manager Ivan Giesbrecht said that the pipeline project would “create 180 high paying, long-term operational jobs that will be based in Kitimat.”
He said it’s the company’s desire to hire locally for those jobs “and we’re working in the community to ensure people know what skills they’ll need to get these jobs.”
Giesbrecht also responded to other claims by Minchin, including company statements that a spill affecting the Kitimat River could take four hours to reach the Douglas Channel, the same amount of time it would take a response crew to even arrive at the spill source.
“Our top priority is to ensure a spill never occurs,” said Giesbrecht.
He continues that the pipeline will have thicker walls at the river, and will have spill response resources and capabilities better than is required by regulation.
As for what would happen in a hypothetical leak in the Kitimat River, he said it would start with emergency shutdown procedures “to minimize further release.”
If oil released from the pipe could not be spotted through usual visual means, control measures would be deployed at pre-designated control points, he said, “to protect sensitive areas.”
The Joint Review Panel’s 209 conditions covers the marine terminal, infrastructure, the two pipelines (condensate and bitumen) and the overall Northern Gateway project.
A lot of it is requirements to create plans or file documents relating to phases of its construction, including impacts to certain animals and environments.