An "unprecedented" alliance of more than 150 First Nations, environmentalists, unions, businesses and even Olympic athletes have united to oppose Enbridge's proposed Northern Gateway pipeline across B.C.
First Nations leaders vowed on Tuesday to use "every possible means" to stop Enbridge from sending Alberta tarsands oil by pipeline to Kitimat and then by tanker down the B.C. coast.
"We'll start with every legal means we can, and we have many, including our constitutionally-protected rights and title to these lands and waters," Coastal First Nations director Art Sterritt said in Vancouver.
"There are many court decisions backing us, but failing all of that, our people have said they will blockade tankers in their little vessels. This is not an uphill battle, this is the wall. Enbridge has just hit the wall. As far as we're concerned, this project is dead."
Enbridge, a Calgary-based energy transportation company, wants to build two 1,170-kilometre pipelines from Edmonton to a new port site near Kitimat, in a $4.5-billion project to move tarsands oil to Asia.
A 36-inch "west" pipeline would carry 525,000 barrels of petroleum per day from Edmonton to Kitimat. An "east" pipeline would carry 193,000 barrels a day of condensate from Kitimat to Edmonton. Condensate is used to thin petroleum for pipeline transport.
Enbridge also plans to build a marine terminal near Kitimat, with two ship berths, storage tanks for petroleum and condensate and "first-response capabilities." Enbridge spokeswoman Jennifer Varey said Tuesday that the company is preparing to file a regulatory application with the National Energy Board in coming weeks. "As such, it would not be appropriate to conduct in-depth media interviews this close to the filing," Varey said.
Varey said Enbridge has set up five community advisory boards "made up of a cross-section of . . . First Nations, business leaders, local government and environmental organizations" to consult locals. Enbridge also must "undergo a comprehensive and rigorous regulatory-review process to ensure the project is in the interest of the Canadian public," she said.
But Gerald Amos, director of the Coastal First Nations, an alliance of nine major aboriginal groups, vowed "we will protect ourselves and the interest of future generations because one major oil spill on the B.C. coast would wipe us out."
Amos insisted that a major oil spill on land or water is inevitable. Said Amos: "We entered this room with one heartbeat on this issue, on what is the 21st anniversary of the Exxon Valdez oil spill."
On March 24, 1989, the tanker Exxon Valdez ran aground, dumping 41.8-million litres of crude oil and fouling 2,090 kilometres of coastline.
As well as massive fish kills, about 250,000 seabirds, nearly 3,000 sea otters, 250 bald eagles and 22 killer whales died following the spill.
Sterritt read out a list of Olympic athletes opposed to the project, including Canadian speedskater Kristina Groves, freestyle skier Kristi Richards, snowboarder Justin Lamoureux and Alpine team member Trevor White, as well as several Canadian Summer Olympic athletes.
Source: The Province