BURNABY—Citing this week’s Enbridge oil spill that has threatened a Michigan river and the earlier disaster by British Petroleum that devastated the U.S. Gulf Coast, the B.C. division of the Canadian Union of Public Employees today joined First Nations and environmental groups in voicing opposition to the Enbridge Northern Gateway project.
The project would involve super tankers carrying bitumen from the Alberta tar sands and navigating the coast of British Columbia, including the fragile Great Bear Rainforest.
CUPE BC says that any potential benefits of the Enbridge plan are outweighed by the high risk of another disaster like the BP oil spill. Enbridge itself has lost credibility in recent days with a pipeline leak that resulted in more than 3 million litres of oil flowing into the Kalamazoo River in southern Michigan, coating birds and fish.
“As we’ve seen in Michigan and the Gulf coast, any kind of oil spill on our coast would have a tremendous impact on the natural environment and would impact wildlife, including salmon and the Kermode bear which is unique to the Great Bear Rainforest,” says CUPE BC diversity vice-president (aboriginal workers) Leanne Louie. “With the BP oil spill, the damage is irreversible. We can’t let that happen here.”
Penetration of the B.C. coastline by oil tankers is only part of a massive plan to build a 1,150-kilometre underground pipeline that will result in the transportation of 525,000 barrels of oil each day across Alberta and B.C. The federal government and its joint review panel are currently reviewing Enbridge’s application for the project despite the B.C. government’s 2006 promise to protect the Great Bear Rainforest.
“Enbridge claims there is minimal risk of an oil spill. In reality, it’s not if but when an oil spill will occur,” says Sheryl Burns, co-chair of the CUPE BC environment committee. “The Campbell government says it wants to fight climate change. But by supporting the Enbridge application it’s doing precisely the opposite, since the pipeline will be a major incentive for increased production of climate-damaging oil from the tar sands. We should be creating green jobs instead that will employ British Columbians while also protecting our environment.”
In a letter to Premier Gordon Campbell, CUPE BC president Barry O’Neill reminds the premier of B.C.’s promise in 2006 to protect the Great Bear Rainforest. “We urge the provincial government to oppose the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway Project altogether and honour the Great Bear Rainforest agreement it signed,” writes O’Neill.