PRINCE RUPERT, B.C. — The Globe and Mail
Published Wednesday, Dec. 12 2012
The Tsimshian Storm pitches up and down on heaving water as it edges toward Hecate Strait. Humpbacks wave great tails at the grey sky. Eagles circle. A pair of porpoises leap above the waves. Not far from here, two million scallops are suspended below the surface on a farm owned by local first nations and a minority-stake Chinese company.
This is the picture environmental groups, and many of those first nations opposed to seeing oil shipments off Canada’s West Coast, are eager for Canadians to see. It is why they have brought reporters on this boat to take it in. They are arguing that this area is too valuable for oil to be shipped near here and Enbridge has not disclosed the magnitude of risk to the area.
This week, federal hearings into the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline have come to Prince Rupert to examine marine impacts and spill response. On Tuesday, Enbridge representatives were grilled on how they would compensate local fishermen if their gear were destroyed or damaged by passing tankers…
Brian Falconer, marine operations director with the Raincoast Conservation Foundation, has looked at nearly a dozen oil ship terminals around the world. None of those operated for longer than 18 years before tankers they loaded experienced major spills, he said. The Exxon Valdez disaster, for example, took place fewer than 12 years after oil shipments began from Alaska.
Worrisome accidents have happened in B.C., too. On Dec. 2, 1993, the bulk carrier Trans Aspiration grounded on Kestrel Rock not far from Prince Rupert, in heavy rain and relatively open water. Other large ships have run aground near here in recent years, too; many had aboard B.C. marine pilots whose local knowledge is supposed to help avoid groundings.
Weather is a further complication. In the past year, winds in the region have been measured at 140 km/h. Waves have reached 26 metres.
“On a lot of days it is hell. It is hell out here,” said Mr. Falconer, who accused Enbridge of a consistent “underrepresentation of risk” that, he said, is “really hard to stomach.”
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