Enbridge underestimates tanker risks in North Pacific, pipeline hearing told

Calgary Herald
BY THE CANADIAN PRESS DECEMBER 12, 2012
PRINCE RUPERT — A half dozen Pacific humpback whales broke the grey surface of the ocean Tuesday just a few nautical miles away from where proponents and critics are sparing before a federal panel that is weighing the future of the Northern Gateway oil pipeline.
It was a fairly calm day for storm season in the North Pacific, where Brian Falconer, Long-time mariner and marine operations co-ordinator for the Raincoast Conservation Foundation, said waves can swell to 26 metres high.
But the project assessment by Calgary-based Enbridge said waves along the tanker route reach 10.2 metres.  “I’ve sailed on this coast for 35 years,” said Falconer, and that is “very, very misleading.”
“It doesn’t match anybody’s experience on the coast. Their portrayal of the weather conditions, their portrayal of duration of the fog, they don’t match,” he said as the Tsimshian Storm ferry swayed to and fro with the waves.
The company uses variously averages, mean values and other “manipulations” of weather, storm conditions and shipping traffic to paint a more favourable picture of the oil pipeline and tanker port, he said.
“They’re not lying. They’ve just chosen a way of expressing it that is meaningless in assessing risk,” Falconer told reporters who took part in the trip organized by the World Wildlife Fund Canada to show the tanker route.
A couple of times a month during the winter, the area will see waves that pummel even huge container ships. Winds can gust on rare occasions to 70-some knots an hour and there is far more shipping traffic than presented when smaller and fishing vessels are included in the figures, he said.
“It’s a manipulation of statistics… the miracle of averaging,” Falconer said.
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