National Geographic Spotlights Proposed Oilsands Pipeline to B.C.

July 21, 2011
Dave Cooper,
Postmedia News

EDMONTON — National Geographic magazine has again focused attention on Alberta’s oilsands, this time with an article on Enbridge’s proposed Northern Gateway project titled “Pipeline Through Paradise.”

The magazine will hit newsstands this week, but the online version is available now.

The article details the sinking of B.C. Ferries’ Queen of the North in 2006, and the oil still leaking from the submerged vessel, suggesting this is a taste of what is in store for the north coast of B.C.

“With the Northern Gateway proposal, the Gitga’at (local First Nations) and the rainforest that surrounds them have been caught up in a great geopolitical oil game. The Northern Gateway isn’t just a pipeline. It’s Canada’s bid to become a global player in the petroleum market,” the article says.

It continues: “The issue is no less critical for the Great Bear Rainforest, a wild stretch of western red cedar, hemlock, and spruce forest that runs 250 miles down British Columbia’s coast. Whales, wolves, bears, and humans thrive in the rich marine channels and forests of the Great Bear, whose boundaries have never been precisely defined.”

Doug Neasloss, a Kitasoo/Xai’xais wildlife guide and marine planner is quoted as saying: “We don’t want another Exxon Valdez on our shores.”

In 2009, an article on the oilsands in the magazine’s March issue highlighted such issues as loss of aboriginal homelands and destruction of boreal forest amid photos of industrial tailings ponds.

For Enbridge, the new article is a disappointment.

“We spent a lot of time and effort with National Geographic, and in the end they didn’t say very much about the information we provided,” spokesman Paul Stanway said.

“They were given extensive information about the safety features we would employ along the pipeline route and the maritime portion.”

The article, with gorgeous photos of the region and a detailed map of tanker routes, appears to have a purpose — to generate support for creating a protected area designated as the Great Bear Rainforest, he said.

“We are fully supportive of that, and we don’t believe tankers going in and out of Douglas channel (between Kitimat and the ocean) would interfere with that in any way, since Kitimat is outside the Great Bear area,” Stanway said.

Enbridge plans to spend “a great of money” on new navigational aids along the coast, which will generally improve safety for all shipping.

A Canadian Coast Guard report has documented the need for much better navigation aids on the North Coast, he said, adding: “We will build several new maritime radar stations as part of this effort.”

The Gateway would deliver up to 525,000 barrels a day of diluted bitumen from the Edmonton area to the port of Kitimat.

The National Energy Board willbegin hearings on the proposal in January at locations along the route, with formal quasi-legal hearings to commence afterwards. It is expected a final decision will be made before the end of 2012.

If approved, the pipeline would probably not be in operation before 2017.

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