On April 19, 2016, CPE sent the following hard copy letter to the top 100 BC businesses, hoping to garner their support. We received one response which we are unable to publish by author’s request.
What is your opinion on the Kinder Morgan Expansion (KMX) and Northern Gateway (NG) pipeline and tanker shipping projects?
On January 21, the Business Council of BC (BCBC) published an op-ed piece stating ‘it is time for a mature conversation on oil exports.’ The authors argued that if Canada does not take its place in the global oil market, less environmentally and socially responsible producers will. We welcomed the invitation to begin a mature conversation on this important topic, but we were disappointed when the authors dismissed the concerns of opposition groups as ‘being rooted in the fantasy that shutting down oil production and pipelines in Canada will somehow be good for the world, our environment or you personally.’
Despite two lengthy and expensive review processes, and the approval of NG by the National Energy Board in 2014, both projects continue to face considerable opposition. While some groups are unconditionally opposed to ‘fossil fuels’, we believe the majority of Canadians are more pragmatic. They understand the need to develop Canada’s resources, but they remain concerned about the risks posed by these megaprojects, especially in light of the recent Mt. Polley tailings dam breach and the Lac Megantic tragedy.
As professional engineers with over one hundred years’ experience in marine transport infrastructure, we understand these risks and the difficult tradeoffs that must be made. We have spent the past four years analyzing these proposals in detail and we participated as intervenors in the review of the NG project. We requested to participate in the TMX review, but the review process was reduced, against considerable protest, and cross-examination of witnesses did not occur.
As a result of our investigations, we believe Canadians are justified in their concerns. For example, the following points highlight a few of the major unresolved issues:
NG’s proposal states the risk of an at least 5,000 cubic metre (five million litres) tanker spill is 9% in its 50 year operating life. TMX’s analysis states a 10% risk for an at least 8,250 cubic metre (eight million two hundred fifty thousand litres) spill in its 50 year operating life. These spills are 1,850 and 3,055 times larger than the MV Marathassa spill in English Bay in 2015, and the risks are unacceptably high.
- Diluted bitumen is vastly different from crude oil, and there is significant uncertainty about whether it can be cleaned up in the event of a marine spill.
- Cleanup funds for a tanker spill are limited to a maximum of $1.3 billion. A major spill would easily exhaust these funds, leaving taxpayers on the hook.
- Safer port locations have never been seriously considered by the proponents.
We have asked the BCBC executive for their opinion on the above concerns, and whether they would join us in calling for a truly objective and science-based review process that has a chance of addressing Canadians’ concerns.
In the absence of a meaningful response to our questions, we are reaching out to the BC business community directly, and extending our own invitation to start a mature conversation on these projects. Specifically, we would like to ask you, as a BC business leader:
Do you believe the 9% and 10% risks of major spills are acceptable? Is your business allowed to proceed with this level of risks, when safer alternatives exist?
- Are you comfortable with the uncertainties presented by transporting diluted bitumen in BC’s coastal waters, or do you believe further study is required?
- Are you comfortable with the amount of funding ($1.3 billion) that is in place to pay for cleanup and recovery in the event of a major marine spill? Do you think tanker and/or pipeline operators should be required to carry insurance adequate to cover reasonable costs for cleanup?
Without a review process that addresses such fundamental concerns, we believe there is little chance that these projects will ever receive the broad support they need in order to proceed. If you share these concerns and if you believe Canada should claim its position as a leader in the global market for natural resources, please join us in requesting a more effective review process.
We have corresponded with the Honourable Catherine McKenna, Minister of Environment and Climate Change, and the Honourable Marc Garneau, Minister of Transport, both of whom have forwarded our requests to the Honourable Jim Carr, Minister of Natural Resources.
Please consider writing to Minister Carr*, your MLA/MP, and the Business Council of British Columbia to let them know your thoughts. We would also be grateful to receive a copy of your letter.
Concerned Professional Engineers
(250) 286-4080 | firstname.lastname@example.org
*Honourable Jim Carr
Minister of Natural Resources
House of Commons
Ottawa ON K1A 0A6
And/or: Honourable Jim Carr
Minister of Natural Resources
102 – 611 Corydon Avenue
Winnipeg MB R3L 0P3