By Janet Holder,
Executive Vice President, Western Access - Enbridge Inc.
Given the scope of the Northern Gateway project, it’s quite natural that the debate surrounding it has been vigorous.
Canadians hold strong values - particularly true when it comes to protecting our environment.
Those of us who believe in the Northern Gateway’s potential to secure our economic future have a unique responsibility to address environmental concerns in an objective, fact-based, and transparent manner.
To that end, I want to address concerns that have been expressed about maritime safety on BC’s coast.
BC’s coastal waters are an integral part of our economy and our culture, particularly for First Nations peoples. The protection of these waters and coastline must be a priority for the project.
At this moment in Canada, every year we move tens of millions of barrels of oil from Vancouver, including diluted bitumen. And over the last 25 years, 1,500 tankers carrying petroleum products have docked safely in Kitimat.
Indeed, there is a tremendous amount of trade, from lumber to fish minerals, from coal to all kinds of containerized consumer products - all carried in large ships in and out of Canadian ports.
Every one of these vessels is governed by Canadian legislation that sets out the regulations and standards that are in turn enforced by the applicable government agency.
Under these regulations, it is required that all of the tankers calling on our Kitimat terminal must be double hulled, communicate with the Canadian Coast Guard and be guided by professional BC Coast Pilots.
But as good as Canadian regulations are, we understand our responsibility to do even more.
That is why we are taking significant additional measures to improve the safety of tanker navigation and to be prepared to act in the unlikely event of a tanker incident.
For example, all tankers transiting the coastal channels will be escorted by powerful tugs.
Laden tankers will have a tug tethered to their stern ready to act immediately should the tanker need assistance. We will also ensure that new land-based radar be installed prior to operations; a first for BC’s north coast. And we’ll work with the Canadian Coast Guard to increase and enhance other navigational aids.
What’s more, we installed additional weather stations and we are taking steps to address concerns about weather conditions by establishing operational limits for wind, waves, and visibility for both tankers under tug escort and terminal operations.
And because immediate response is the best way to contain and minimize adverse environmental effects, we are making every preparation to act quickly should an incident occur by requiring that tugs are equipped for first response, including firefighting, oil spill and ocean towing capabilities.
We are also proposing oil spill response in the shipping channels that is at least three times the response capabilities mandated by Transport Canada, which will be staged along the tanker routes.
Our marine plan has been thoroughly scrutinized by a number of federal agencies including Transport Canada and the Canadian Coast Guard - our natural abundance is the life-blood of our culture and our economy.
Northern Gateway is a big part of our future and will provide every Canadian — particularly young Canadians and First Nations — with an economic inheritance that will open up new doors to a more prosperous country for all our citizens.
To realize that future, Northern Gateway has to meet the highest standards possible for environmental safety and economic benefit.
That’s our first commitment to British Columbians and all Canadians.
Janet Holder is a British Columbian and is the Enbridge senior executive in charge of Northern Gateway