The Comox Valley Environmental Council is a 20-year-old not-for-profit society that acts as an umbrella organization for 18 local environmental organizations and local municipal and regional representatives in the North and Central Vancouver Island ridings.
This letter is to express the council’s opposition to the proposed Northern Gateway Pipeline project.
We are obligated to take this position because of the insufficient scientific knowledge for evaluating or designing a safe diluted bitumen pipeline transport and monitoring system for protecting the environment and human health.
Neither the oil industry nor the regulatory agencies have any scientific studies of how diluted bitumen behaves in pressurized pipelines. Also, historical performance data from existing systems carrying this product is not yet available.
Likewise, scientific evidence for reliable monitoring systems does not yet exist. Current state-of-the-art systems are designed based on the characteristics of traditional crude oil.
What has been established is that the more viscous diluted bitumen causes pressure changes that create gas bubbles, triggering false alarms. As a result, a timely response to a real spill is jeopardized.
Based on figures from the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers and the National Energy Board, Canada’s oil pipeline capacity is far ahead of expected demand. Thus, the need for the Northern Gateway Project is not supported.
Another scientific unknown is what happens to the diluted bitumen when spilled. Both the short-term and long-term environmental effects of a spill have not been adequately studied or documented. Data on just the human health effects are still being collected from the 2010 Enbridge Michigan spill.
Given the questionable need for more pipeline capacity and the potential danger to the environment because of the lack of scientific knowledge, the Comox Valley Environmental Council encourages the Canadian and British Columbia governments to not approve the Northern Gateway Pipeline.
Editor’s note: Larry Peterson is the chair of the Comox Valley Environmental Council.