Marine biologist will warn Comox Valley about dangers of oil spills

Fefore the Joint Review Panel for the Enbridge Northern Gateway Project public hearings in Comox, Dr. Riki Ott will speak.

One week before Round Two of the Joint Review Panel for the Enbridge Northern Gateway Project public hearings in Comox, Dr. Riki Ott will be the featured speaker at a public meeting in Courtenay.

Ott, a marine biologist who has spent the past 23 years dealing firsthand with oil spills and their effect on the environment, will speak Aug. 3 at 7 p.m. in the Lower Native Sons Hall. The address is sponsored by the World Community Development Education Society.

A resident of Cordova, Alaska, Ott earned her PhD in 1985 from the University of Washington’s School of Fisheries with emphasis on effects of heavy metals on benthic invertebrates. She was a fisher in Alaska in 1989 at the time of the Exxon Valdez spill.

A trained marine toxicologist and former commercial fisher, she has written two books on oil spill impacts to ecosystems, people, and communities, and starred in Black Wave: The Legacy of the Exxon Valdez, an award-winning feature film.

In 2009, Ott co-founded Ultimate Civics, a project of Earth Island Institute, and the national grassroots coalition MoveToAmend.org.

In May 2010, Ott brought her expertise to the Gulf of Mexico, volunteering for one year to expose a public health crisis of chemical illness and to help with local community organizing.

She is speaking in Courtenay on the dangers to human health, communities and the environment posed by pipelines and oil spills, one week before a scheduled two days of hearings at the Comox Recreation Centre on Aug. 10 and 11, starting at 9 a.m. each day.

The Polaris Institute reported in 2008 that Enbridge’s own data revealed 610 spills from Enbridge pipelines from 1999 to 2008. The July 2010 spill of diluted bitumen (the product that Enbridge wants to pipe from Alberta to Kitimat) in the Kalamazoo River in Michigan was, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) “the largest inland oil spill in Midwest history”, of at least 840,000 gallons of oil.

On July 10, a press release issued by the Office of Public Affairs of the US National Transportation Safety Board states, “This investigation identified a complete breakdown of safety at Enbridge.

“Their employees performed like Keystone Kops and failed to recognize their pipeline had ruptured and continued to pump crude into the environment,” said NTSB Chairman Deborah A.P. Hersman.

The full report is not yet complete but a synopsis can be seen at www.ntsb.gov/news/events/2012/marshall_mi/index.html.

Under the theme Our Coast, Our Decision! No Pipeline, No Tankers! local environmental activists, artists, musicians, everyone is encouraged to use the time from Aug. 3 to 10/11 to creatively demonstrate their determination to protect the environment and defend the right of First Nations and all residents of B.C. to make the decision on the Enbridge Northern Gateway project.

For more information on Dr. Riki Ott, visit www.rikiott.com.

For more information on the Joint Review Panel, see http://gatewaypanel.review-examen.gc.ca.

For more information on the Courtenay/Comox events, phone 250-337-5412, e-mail bseed2000@yahoo.ca and on Facebook see Our Coast, Our Decision — public meetings and events.

— World Community Development Education Society

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