by Frances Beinecke, President, NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council)
For the very first time, British Columbia Premier Christy Clark has publicly stated that the environmental risks associated with the Northern Gateway tar sands pipeline outweigh the economic benefits.
Clark’s statement marks a decisive shift in her position on the $5.5 billion venture — until now, she has failed to take a definitive stand on the project.
The pipeline, proposed by energy giant Enbridge, would carry 500,000 barrels a day of the world’s dirtiest oil from the Alberta tar sands to the Spirit Bear Coast, where it will be loaded onto supertankers for export and forced to navigate through treacherous, wildlife-filled waters, including a channel six times narrower than the passage that sunk the Exxon Valdéz.
The pipeline’s route will pass through British Columbia’s ancient coastal rainforest, home to orcas, humpbacks, wolves and some of the very last Spirit Bears on Earth. Its world-class salmon runs have supported the region’s First Nations peoples for thousands of years.
Just one tar sands spill could destroy all that forever.
NHL Hall of Famer and former New York Rangers goalie Mike Richter explains what’s so special about the Spirit Bear Coast—and why it’s so important to protect it. Watch the video now.
Clark voiced her concerns just days after federal investigators announced that Enbridge had likely violated two dozen regulations when it spilled more than a million gallons of tar sands oil into Michigan’s Kalamazoo River in 2010 — the most costly pipeline accident in U.S. history.
“I think Enbridge has some pretty important questions to answer,” Clark told reporters in Kamloops, British Columbia, according to The Globe and Mail. “That kind of spill that happened in Michigan is not acceptable in British Columbia.”
In an independent poll, 66% of British Columbians said they oppose allowing crude oil supertankers through British Columbia’s inside coastal waters, including 50% who said they were strongly opposed. In addition, more than 70 First Nations are united in total opposition to the pipeline and its oil tanker traffic. Even celebrities like Kevin Bacon have lent their support to the cause.
But try as they might, they can’t stave off Enbridge by themselves. It’s critical that Premier Clark respect the wishes of the First Nations and the residents of British Columbia by rejecting the Northern Gateway pipeline.
The British Columbia government now has a choice to make. The country can heed the lessons learned from the Kalamazoo spill, or ignore that harrowing wake-up call at its own peril — and put the Spirit Bear Coast one spill away from disaster.
Now that Premier Clark has voiced her concerns about this potentially devastating project, it’s time to build on that momentum and urge her to take the next critical step. Call on Premier Clark to stand up to Big Oil and oppose the Northern Gateway tar sands pipeline and oil tankers that would endanger the entire Spirit Bear Coast.