Two separate incidents involving container ships off the coast of British Columbia have local First Nations questioning the prudence of transporting tar sands crude in the region's hazardous waterways. The incidents, occurring within less than 48 hours of each other, lend new support to those who oppose the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline that would bring over 200 oil-bearing supertankers through the area each year.
Yesterday the Tern Arrow, a deep-sea container ship, suffered a power failure in Gitga'at territorial waters in the Great Bear Rainforest.
“The ship lost power and drifted for three hours in Laredo Sound,” said Arnold Clifton, Chief Councillor of the Gitga'at First Nation. “This is the same place that a ship hit Wilson Rock in 1980. These are the same coastal waters that Enbridge is proposing to bring more than 225 oil supertankers through every year. How many close calls will we have then, and how will our coastal communities survive?”
Earlier this month British Columbians were surprised to hear that Enbridge, the main proponent of the proposed Northern Gateway Pipeline, was unable to explain how the company's world-class spill prevention and clean up practices were either world-class or preventative.
At a public hearing in Prince George, Enbridge failed to instill confidence in the audience, admitting the company had no land-based spill prevention plan at all. During cross-examination the company admitted they will not have a spill-response plan until six months before the proposed pipeline would begin operation.
The company was unable to explain how they would respond to land-based spills from a pipeline designed to cover 1,172 km, crossing more than 770 of British Columbia's pristine watercourses.
BC Environment Minister Terry Lake said “the responses that Enbridge/Northern Gateway representatives are giving our legal counsel are long on promises, but short on solid evidence and action to date,” adding, “the company needs to show British Columbians that they have practical solutions to the environmental risks and concerns that have been raised. So far, they have not done that.”
Enbridge will be cross-examined regarding maritime spill prevention in Prince Rupert on November 22, less than one month after the town was on high emergency alert after the second largest earthquake in Canada's history threatened coastal towns with tsunami warnings. The 7.7 magnitude quake put the entire Pacific Northwest on tusnami alert, with late-night sirens prompting regional evacuations from Alaska to Hawaii.
Today, Canada’s House of Commons approved a motion calling for a permanent ban on oil tankers off British Columbia’s coast. The passed NDP motion introduced by MP Nathan Cullen urges the government to immediately propose legislation to “ban bulk oil tanker traffic” through the Dixon Entrance, Hecate Strait and Queen Charlotte Sound, off the north coast of B.C. The bill received Parliamentary support in a tight a vote of 143-138, with all opposition parties supporting it and Conservatives opposed.
British Columbia is now one step closer to having a full legislated ban on supertankers off its north and central coasts. The opposition is sending a clear message to the Conservatives to legislate a formal moratorium.
Today’s ban could seriously impact Enbridge, who has plans to develop a $5.5 billion 1,170-kilometre pipeline to carry dirty tar sands bitumen to Kitimat, B.C., where it would be loaded onto supertankers bound for growing energy markets in Asia.
Democracy is utterly dependent upon an electorate that is accurately informed. In promoting climate change denial (and often denying their responsibility for doing so) industry has done more than endanger the environment. It has undermined democracy.
There is a vast difference between putting forth a point of view, honestly held, and intentionally sowing the seeds of confusion. Free speech does not include the right to deceive. Deception is not a point of view. And the right to disagree does not include a right to intentionally subvert the public awareness.