Advance View: Pipeline crosses unsteady ground

Unless the folks at Enbridge change their tactics, they might as well start looking for somewhere else to stick their pipe.

First and foremost, they need to convince B.C.’s First Nations and their supporters from a full cross-section of B.C. residents that the Gateway Pipeline can be built and operated safely and with significant benefits for the people whose lands they must cross.

So far, they’ve done a lousy job of that.

They need to offer realistic assurances that B.C.’s environment won’t be trampled – and clear indications that they will be ready to quickly and efficiently stem and clean up the spills that will inevitably occur.

Instead, they only added $500-million to their clean-up readiness budget – in response to public outrage over the now-infamous three-million-litre Kalamazoo River spill in Michigan.

Even the corporate structure set up to create the pipeline seems suspect: organized so that, in the event of a truly massive (and expensive) spill, the pipeline company could declare bankruptcy, allowing Enbridge itself to walk away and cut its losses.

And no one has seriously done anything to allay fears arising from tanker traffic traversing some of the most dangerous coastal waters in the world.

Enbridge’s selling strategy so far has seemed a total reliance on its confederates in the federal government to push the project through, regardless of risks or widespread popular opposition throughout B.C.

Only facets of the business community have suggested that the rationale for the pipeline – the economic efficacy of expanding Canada’s raw oil markets beyond the United States – outweigh the risks.

This week’s fully anticipated announcement by the Harper government was surprising only in that it wasn’t as ringing an endorsement of the project as Enbridge must have been hoping it would be.

The equally anticipated response from the opposition has been swift and sure: they will fight it with every resource available.

– B.G.

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