MEDIA CONTACTS: Nikki Skuce, senior energy campaigner, ForestEthics Advocacy – 250-877-7762 or 778-210-0117
Barry Robinson, Ecojustice – 403-830-2032
PRINCE GEORGE, BC –Enbridge continues to insist that its proposed Northern Gateway Pipeline won’t leak, but stopped short of offering a guarantee at the National Energy Board (NEB) Joint Review Panel hearings in Prince George today.
Under cross-examination by ForestEthics Advocacy lawyer Barry Robinson, expert witnesses representing Enbridge said the company learned much from its July 2010 oil spill in Marshall, Michigan, for which it has been criticized for not responding to early warnings of an impending spill.
“Enbridge continues to claim that they 'learned' from their Kalamazoo river spill during the hearings,” said Nikki Skuce, ForestEthics Advocacy. “British Columbians shouldn’t trust Enbridge’s oil spill schooling, as they’ve never graduated and continue to spill every year.”
When Robinson asked the company to commit to not exceeding its spill average at the time of the Michigan spill, the company declined.
“Given the Marshall incident, there is some general skepticism about Enbridge’s ability to operate a pipeline safely,” Robinson said. “I think it would reassure the Canadian pubic if there was some metric they could look at and say, yes, Enbridge is improving.
“Would Enbridge, as a condition of approval, commit to stopping the construction of, or stopping the operation of, Northern Gateway Pipeline if on any given calendar year the spill frequency should exceed [206 barrels per 1,000 kilometres of pipeline]?” Robinson asked.
Enbridge responded that it would not.
“There’s much more involved in saying that that kind of statistic involves a go, no-go,” Enbridge witness Walter Kresic said, calling the idea “innovative” but adding there is currently no industry benchmark for pipeline defining a “safe” pipeline.
Earlier in the week, Northern Gateway admitted that a chance of a spill of any size was 70.9 per cent.
Robinson wrapped up his cross-examination with a direct question for Enbridge’s experts: “Can Enbridge give this panel any guarantee that the Northern Gateway Pipeline will never leak?” Enbridge replied that while it did not believe a spill was inevitable, it could not guarantee one would never happen.