Calamity in Kalamazoo can cancel B.C. pipeline.

Enbridge blew it! The company can kiss the Northern Gateway Pipeline through British Columbia goodbye. It is not going to happen. It all came down to a report out of Washington by the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). In July of 2010, Enbridge pumped over three million litres of bitumen slurry from Alberta’s tar sands into the Kalamazoo River in south-east Michigan and nobody will ever let the company forget it.

Of course, we have known about the spill for two years. There has been a clean-up—of sorts. The damage is more or less permanent. The company spent more than $800 million to clean up the carrier oil—the lighter crude that they mix with bitumen from tar sands crude to help it flow. The tar is settling into the water table, becoming part of the wetlands of the area. It will take a long-term study to determine the permanent damage.

The NTSB report was scathing. The board actually found that Enbridge kept pumping for 17 hours after the first alarms. It was a third-party that finally convinced the company that there was a serious spill. And the company did not even have clean-up equipment available for a bitumen spill. It had some equipment for the floating crude—not the stuff that sinks.

Would anyone trust this company to say it is never going to happen again?

The chair of the NTSB said the company’s response to the spill reminded her of a Keystone Kops effort. That is an image that Enbridge will wear as long as the company continues to operate under that name.

It leaves Stephen Harper and his pseudo environment minister, Joe Oliver, hung out to dry. It is a win for Thomas Mulcair that he did not earn. It leaves acting Liberal Leader Bob Rae with egg on his face. He was trying to find a compromise position on the issue. There is no compromise available. You just lose support from people on both sides of the issue.

Enbridge has given inestimable ammunition to the anti-pipeline forces with this report. It could bankrupt the company. Back when we knew the company as Consumers’ Gas in Toronto, there was a high level of trust. The NTSB said that Enbridge had known for five years that there was a corrosion in that pipeline through south east Michigan. And then they put more corrosive, higher temperature tar sand bitumen through it at higher pressures. That was a death wish.


Copyright 2012 © Peter Lowry

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