Sitting in the Joint Review Panel (JRP) hearing room in Prince George, Enbridge’s experts are being cross-examined by a variety of intervenors. There are at least 30 Enbridge paid staff and consultants in the room, mostly men. There are over a dozen National Energy Board staff administering the process and assisting the three panel members. Media, intervenors, and the public fill the rest of the hall (ironically decorated for a wedding despite the contested proposal).
The imbalance of resources is visually evident. But the compelling stories come from those community members who have decided to navigate and participate in the JRP process, spending hundreds of hours of volunteer time finding gaps in Enbridge’s application, questioning Enbridge on their application, putting forward their own evidence, and cross-examining the company at the hearings. They come with drive to protect their homes, and livelihoods and quality of life oil-free rivers and coastline provide.
On October 10, Murray Minchin of Douglas Channel Watch cross-examined Enbridge’s experts without legal assistance, but with a profound knowledge of place. Murray is part of Douglas Channel Watch - a community-based group in Kitimat that brought together former Alcan and mill workers, nurses and teachers and others, to do something to protect their coast against oil tankers. They have fished in the Kitimat River. They have identified hundreds of birds in the estuary. They all have stories about being kept ashore from stormy weather that plagues the Douglas Channel. They are all committed to doing what it takes to keep oil spills off their shores.
Murray has walked the proposed route on the west-side of the Hoult Mountain, and he has shown the obvious traces of avalanche activity where Enbridge’s pipeline would come out of their tunnel in the coastal mountain. Despite the at-times condescending attitude of a couple of Enbridge’s experts, Murray appeared more knowledgeable of the land than anyone in the room.
The main findings Douglas Channel Watch learned from Enbridge were that an avalanche can happen on the portal slope; that Enbridge feels as though the seismic hazards are “well defined” for the Kitimat area despite recent reports; and that they have the same level of confidence in their Edmonton control room as they did for the Kalamazoo spill.
Murray took a week of unpaid leave from work to question Enbridge. Chris Peters, an engineer from Prince George, began his questioning after Murray and is another community intervenor here on his own dime. ForestEthics Advocacy, with representation by EcoJustice, is up next.
We hope it will sink in soon to Enbridge that their engagement to BC has been broken off long ago. The first dance will happen when Enbridge leaves.