Pro-development B.C. community says no to Northern Gateway
In Public Opinion Research conducted by the District of Fort St. James 198 respondents indicated a significant majority (86%) opposed the Northern Gateway pipeline proposal.
The following letter was put on the Joint Review Panel registry last Friday, and spells out the enormous difficulty industry and the Harper government face in getting tar sands pipelines built to the B.C. coast. It’s not just the so-called “foreign-funded radicals” who are opposed to this project. Even industry towns such as Fort St. James that have typically relied on natural resource exploitation for their economic livelihoods are deeply troubled by the Enbridge pipeline proposal.
This story first appeared in the Vancouver Sun: Pro-development B.C. community says no to Northern Gateway | Vancouver Sun.
Dear Sir or Madam,
On Wednesday July 18, 2012 the District of Fort St. James Mayor & Council passed a unanimous resolution to oppose the Enbridge Northern Gateway Project. The District registered as a Government Participant in the Joint Review Panel process in 2011, without a decision at that time to formally support or oppose the project but to listen objectively to information as it was shared. The decision of Mayor and Council to oppose the project came after extensive community consultation with their residents as well as numerous presentations by Enbridge to Mayor and Council.
For decades the community of Fort St. James has relied on an established forest industry as our primary economic driver and employer. Residents in Fort St. James are comfortable with industry and the economic opportunities it brings in regards to natural resource extraction and value-added manufacturing. Residents of Fort St. James are keen to diversify their economy and participate actively in economic opportunities as they arise. They are also wary of situations where industry seeks to profit while local residents shoulder the risk and long-term environmental costs.
Our community members are strongly devoted to Fort St. James largely in part to the quality of life enjoyed as a result of access to clean water and vibrant wilderness. Our residents participate in lifestyle activities such as hiking, swimming, canoeing, boating, fishing, hunting, trapping, sailing and camping at our doorstep on Stuart Lake, Stuart River and Pitka Creek as well as other wilderness areas as part of our local environment. Many of our residents rely on our environment for their way of life, through hunting, fishing, foraging (berries, mushrooms, medicinal plants, etc.), logging, and trapping by sustainable practices. Notable animal species in our area include grizzly bear, black bear, sockeye salmon, fisher, wolverine, cougar, moose, white tail and mule deer, and the trumpeter swan.
The Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline as proposed would have a pumping station located just South of our municipal airport, and would cross the Stuart River and the Pitka Creek, which flows into the Stuart Lake and provides the aforementioned opportunities relating to recreational wilderness access as well as integral habitat for the animal species listed above. Many residents rely on ground water wells or access drinking water from the Lake and nearby waterways. Rural residents living nearby the proposed pump station location use their property for both commercial and personal farming activities. Recreational vehicle users of snowmobiles and ATVs have an extensive network of trails, many of which would cross where the proposed pipeline would run, raising concerns over motorized vehicle access restrictions as a result of National Energy Board legislation and threatening impacts on our developing tourism industry.
The message strongly conveyed by residents to Mayor and Council was that NO AMOUNT of potential economic benefit could outweigh the potential risks should a spill occur in or nearby the Stuart River and Stuart Lake. For residents, their connection to the land base and natural water sources is too intertwined for consideration of an industrial activity which puts their livelihoods at risk.
In Public Opinion Research conducted by the District of Fort St. James 198 respondents indicated a significant majority (86%) were in strong support of Council adopting a stance opposing the Northern Gateway project. The concerns expressed in the survey responses focused on the potential for negative environmental impacts in the community, region and province, coupled with a belief that the project would bring little long-term economic benefit to the community or region.
While Enbridge has been very accommodating in regards to meeting with Mayor and Council to discuss their concerns and share information, no answer has been given which satisfactorily eliminates any and all potential of spill risk. Examples of Enbridge’s stewardship and spill response in the United States and in Canada have damaged the reputation of Enbridge as being a responsive and safe pipeline operator and further eroded trust towards the Northern Gateway Project.
The District of Fort St. James does not support the Enbridge Northern Gateway Project. It is with a clear and strong voice that we stand with our neighbours in Nak’azdli First Nation in opposition to this development. We urge the Joint Review Panel to consider the individuals who live in our community and communities like ours all along the proposed route. We would like to build a strong economic future for our grandchildren, but in order to do so we must have an environment which is intact. Bitumen pipelines are not what we consider a sustainable practice, and it seems that this belief is reinforced through reported pipeline leaks on almost a daily basis. We feel it is the position of Mayor and Council to speak up for our constituents and they have been clear with us regarding their desires on this matter. We respectfully thank you for taking the time to consider and weigh the desires of our community in the decision making processes ahead.
Mayor Rob MacDougall
cc. The Honourable Peter Kent, Minister of the Environment
cc. The Honourable Christy Clark, Premier of British Columbia
cc. MP Nathan Cullen, (MP Skeena Bulkley