NDP BC MPs express their concerns about the Enbridge Northern Gateway Project

Secretary to the Joint Review Panel
Enbridge Northern Gateway Project
444 Seventh Avenue S.W.
Calgary, AB T2P 0X8

Dear Secretary:

Many Canadians have raised concerns about the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline and the risks it would pose to both our environment and our economy. As British Columbian Members of Parliament, we have heard from many constituents who share these concerns and who believe that better alternatives exist for a more sustainable economy.

We write to the Joint Review Panel in the hopes that these views may inform the panel in its consideration of a project with such a tremendous potential impact on British Columbians and on all Canadians.

What’s at stake?
Our province is blessed with an abundance of natural resources and as British Columbians, we understand the value of responsible, sustainable development that creates jobs while respecting our environment and social needs. While British Columbians welcome these sorts of positive developments and recognize that our economy depends on them, they have also consistently stood up to oppose projects that threaten our way of life.

One of our significant natural resources is the beauty and bounty of nature itself which draws hundreds of thousands of tourists from around the world – close to 1 million in 2001 – who contribute to more than $1.55 billion in annual revenues from wilderness tourism.

Additionally, our significant marine resources sustain a multi-billion dollar fisheries industry which is essential to the sustainability of countless coastal communities and a key part of our cultural heritage. The Commercial salmon fishery alone is worth $250 million each year while recreational fisheries generate more than $550 million in direct expenditures.

Taken together, the wilderness tourism and fisheries sectors contribute more than two billion dollars each year to BC’s economy and employ more than 65,000 people in long-term jobs. All of this economic activity would be place at risk by the introduction of oil pipelines and supertankers associated with the Northern Gateway project.

Our risks for their benefits
The risks are enormous; the proposed project would see Eiffel Tower-sized tankers shipping raw crude through some of the world’s most hazardous waters. With more than two hundred supertankers each year, many see that it is not a question of if, but when accidents will happen. Even a medium sized spill would contaminate our delicate coastline for decades, decimating our fisheries and coastal communities.

The proposed pipeline would cross as many as 1,000 rivers and streams which form the headwaters of the iconic salmon bearing Skeena and Fraser Rivers. Over the proposed 40 year lifetime of the pipeline, spills are inevitable. Our constituents watched with consternation the destruction of Enbridge’s 2010 pipeline leak near Kalamazoo, Michigan, wondering if British Columbia may host a similar scene. The rugged terrain and remoteness of the proposed northern route would make spill response extremely challenging and thus aggravate the impacts of a pipeline breach.

While the risks to our environment and regional economy are significant and clear, the benefits created by the project would flow primarily to oil companies that already reap tremendous profits. In essence, our communities are being asked to subsidize oil company profits by assuming the risks of their proposal while receiving few of the benefits.

Respecting First Nations rights
The success of British Columbia and of Canada depends on the continued development of constructive relationships between First Nations and non-First Nations communities. Working together, with respect and mutual understanding we can harness the potential of our province.

The Northern Gateway pipeline is a threat to this type of relationship. Many First Nations have voiced their concern with the lack of consultation and failure to respect their traditional rights and title. An unprecedented alliance of 130 First Nations has stood together in rejecting the pipeline and vowing to protect their traditional territories.

We are deeply concerned that the Government of Canada continues to reject the principle of government to government negotiations, which has been affirmed by the Supreme Court, and instead brands First Nations who seek to protect their lands from oil spills as “radicals” and “adversaries”.

Upstream climate impacts
We are also troubled that, in the terms of its consideration, the Panel has been directed to ignore the upstream effects of the pipeline. With an initial capacity of 525,000 barrels of oil per day, Northern Gateway would not only contribute to – but necessitate – a rapid and unsustainable increase in oil sands production.

The 30% increase in oil sands growth would produce an additional 6.5 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions every year and increase the rate of growth of tailings ponds which already cover more than 170km2 – an area larger than Vancouver.

It is inconceivable that the impacts of the proposed pipeline can be adequately weighed without the consideration of the cumulative upstream impacts associated with increased raw bitumen exports.

Canadians are frustrated with a government that refuses to address the environmental impacts of the oil sands. They are especially concerned that the government is green-lighting the rapid expansion of oil extraction in order to ship raw, unrefined bitumen to foreign countries which ensures Canada pays the environmental price without extracting the full value of our resources.

Sustainable energy alternatives
Canada, however, does not need to continue down this reckless path. With federal leadership, we can develop a sustainable energy economy that cleans our environment, protects our way of life, and creates good local jobs instead of shipping them out of Canada.

For years, New Democrats have called for a Canadian energy strategy that reflects the interests of all Canadians—not just those of the oil and gas industry. We need a strategy that puts the needs of Canadians first and helps move us to a sustainable, clean-energy future.

As members of the Joint Review Panel, you bear a significant responsibility not only to all Canadians, but to future generations. The pipeline proposal currently before you is a clear example of the choices facing our country: between short term work and sustainable jobs; between conflict with First Nations and a relationship of respect; between an outdated energy economy and a sustainable energy economy of the 21st century.

We hope that you will carefully consider this responsibility and the collective voices of thousands of Canadians that have also shared their concerns.

Sincerely,

NDP British Columbia Caucus

Don Davies, MP
Vancouver Kingsway

Alex Atamanenko, MP
BC Southern Interior

Jean Crowder, MP
Nanaimo-Cowichan

Nathan Cullen, MP
Skeena-Bulkley Valley

Libby Davies, MP
Vancouver East

Fin Donnelly, MP
New Westminster-Coquitlam and Port Moody

Randall Garrison, MP
Esquimalt-Juan de Fuca

Peter Julian, MP
Burnaby-New Westminster

Jasbir Sandhu, MP
Surrey North

Denise Savoie, MP
Victoria

Jinny Sims, MP
Newton-North Delta

Kennedy Stewart, MP
Burnaby Douglas

This Open Letter to Ministers & Public Officials was posted on February 24, 2012
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