British Columbia's iconic North Coast is too valuable to be put at risk for an Enbridge spill © Ben Fox

The Issue - Enbridge's proposed Northern Gateway pipeline and tanker project threatens North America

Risk not worth taking: Oil tankers on BC’s coast

The oil tanker traffic Enbridge’s pipeline would bring to BC's pristine North Coast represents the project’s greatest risk to the region’s environment. ForestEthics and others spent years trying to protect the Great Bear Rainforest and now Enbridge wants to introduce oil supertankers to its seas.

The northwest coast is a place of magic – home to the iconic spirit bear, orca, humpback and fin whales, salmon, herring, shellfish – it is teeming with life. A large oil spill on BC's North Coast would devastate a marine ecosystem that supports a vibrant coastal way of life for thousands of people. This includes commercial fisheries based in Prince Rupert and Kitimat, sport angling lodges, and a wide variety of seafood related enterprises. For First Nations, the North Coast’s rich and diverse marine ecosystems are inextricably tied to their cultures and livelihoods.

Enbridge’s proposed tankers would pass right in front of Gil Island where the BC Ferry Queen of the North sank in 2006, killing two and continuing to burp up diesel from the ocean’s bottom today. An oil spill will happen if tankers are introduced to these rough waters, and coastal First Nations and communities are not willing to take the risk. There is too much at stake.

Enbridge’s pipeline proposes to cross fragile ecosystems in rugged terrain

Unlike other pipelines Enbridge has built, the route for the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline crosses the rugged, mountainous terrain of the Northern Rockies of Alberta and the Coast Mountains of British Columbia.

The pipeline would cross nearly 800 streams and rivers, including sensitive salmon spawning habitat in the upper Fraser, Skeena, and Kitimat watersheds. Five important salmon rivers that would be impacted are the Stuart River, Morice River, Copper River, Kitimat River and Salmon River.

If built, the Northern Gateway pipelines would cross the territories of more than 50 First Nations groups, many who have never ceded their land, and whose rights and title has been affirmed by the Supreme Court of Canada. Opposition is strong amongst First Nations, and includes both a coastal tanker ban and ban against tar sands transport through the Fraser watershed. To date, over 130 First Nations have signed the Save the Fraser Declaration.

In July 2010, Enbridge’s Lakehead pipeline ruptured near Battle Creek, Michigan, spilling an estimated 4 million litres (over 1 million gallons) of crude oil into the Kalamazoo River. It was the largest oil spill in the US Midwest’s history and has yet to be cleaned up and the river re-opened.

Threats to wild salmon in BC have created a wave of opposition to Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipelines. Between Enbridge’s poor track record and the valuable ecosystems the proposed pipelines put at risk, the project simply doesn’t make sense.

Enbridge’s proposed project – what does it mean for Canada’s Tar Sands?

Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline and tanker project would help facilitate the expansion of the tar sands by over 30 per cent. Currently, all tar sands oil exported is done through pipelines to the United States. With the decision to postpone TransCanada’s Keystone XL, the tar sands industry and Canada’s federal government have put increasing pressure on getting Northern Gateway built to Asia.

Oil companies went for the easiest to get tar sands first in Alberta. The new mines proposed and being developed are requiring more and more energy to extract a barrel of oil, putting into question whether or not we should be using the energy we have (such as natural gas) for other purposes.

In addition, all of Eastern Canada currently imports 100 per cent of its oil from Saudi Arabia, Iran and other nations1. Economists have shown that the impact of Enbridge receiving higher prices for its oil to Asia could create higher costs to consumers and non-oil producing sectors across Canada, and ultimately lead to inflation2.

From economic and environmental perspectives, Enbridge’s Northern Gateway is not in Canada’s national interest.

1. Hughes, J. David. (2011, November 22). The Northern Gateway Pipeline. View report.
2. Allen, Robyn. (2012, January). An Economic Assesment of Northern Gateway. Retrived from <

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