Letters & Editorials

Support for Northern Gateway

John Winter
August 31, 2012

To the Members of the Enbridge Northern Gateway Project Review Panel

Please accept this letter of comment as strong support by the British Columbia Chamber of Commerce for the Enbridge Northern Gateway Project.

Chamber members from across the province have been leading supporters of the Asia Pacific Gateway Strategy as an essential part of building  a strong economy for now and for the future.  Businesses across the province have recognized that even if their business is not directly involved in a Gateway industry, this strategy is in our collective economic interests.  The Chamber believes the Northern Gateway Project is a logical extension of this strategy and that the debate should mirror the discussion around the provincial and the national importance of the Asia Pacific strategy.

The Chamber is concerned that the public discourse around this project has become distorted by emotion and a lack of understanding of the fact base regarding pipelines or tankers.  To look at the media and public comments you would be hard pressed to realize that BC has a long record of transporting oil through pipelines and by tankers. 

British Columbia already has approximately 2,700 km of provincially-regulated oil and natural gas liquid pipe.  These pipelines have been operating since the 1950’s with an excellent safety record and very little concern raised by the public.

If we look at the past decade (the only period for which Transport Canada could provide records) there have been 13 incidents with oil and chemical tankers in waters near Vancouver. The worst, in 2002, saw 2,300 litres of canola oil spilt. In total, over the past decade, only 31 litres of petroleum has spilled in the area.  It is also important to note that this record has been achieved using 1950’s pipeline technology, the Northern Gateway Project will be utilizing significantly improved technology that will greatly increase the safety of the project.

Further to this, according to statistics from the Port of Kitimat, there have been over 1,500 vessels carrying petroleum products into port between 1982 and 2009 – that’s some 3,100 transits. What’s more, when you add all vessel traffic servicing industry into Kitimat, the number of vessel transits jumps to over 11,700!

These are important contextual realities that do not form part of the public discourse, but must be a substantive part of the decision making progress for the Joint Review Panel.

The Chamber recognizes that the Northern Gateway Project represents a substantial increase in the movement of oil across BC and through BC waters.  The proponent proposes to build 2 pipelines, each of these in BC.  One pipeline will transport 525,000 barrels of oil a day westbound while the other will transport 193,000 barrels of condensate a day eastbound (condensate is used to thin petroleum products for pipeline transportation).

The Chamber has always recognized that projects must be assessed to determine a balance between potential environmental damage and the need for economic and social progress.  In the case of this project, the proponent has already outlined an array of world class safety measures that include new navigational aids, radar system improvements and an enhanced emergency response that will significantly improve safety, not just for the project, but for all shipping on BC’s north coast.

The Chamber believes these are welcome commitments and ones that government has a responsibility to keep.

Economic Benefits
The Northern Gateway Pipeline will link Canada’s vast energy reserves with the global markets. With the potential to generate thousands of construction jobs and a $270 billion increase to Canada’s Gross Domestic Product over 30 years, the benefits from Northern Gateway can benefit all Canadians.

Northern BC is in desperate need of new investments and new opportunities for its residents to earn a living. Northern Gateway will help bring economic security and hope to the region. BC alone seeks to benefit from about 3000 jobs during construction and about 560 long term jobs. Projected BC tax revenue from the Project is $1.2 billion which can go to support education, health care and training. In terms of local goods and services alone, the BC Coast would benefit from about $318 million in local goods and services, the central coast would benefit from $400 million and North East BC would benefit from about $112 million, all this in the absence of  a collaborative agreement with Alberta.

For the Canadian job market this means about 1,150 long-term job opportunities, including 104 permanent operating positions created with Northern Gateway and 113 positions with the associated marine services. Total local, provincial and federal government tax revenues during 30 years of operations will be approximately $2.6 billion; this includes about $36 million per year estimated to be paid by Northern Gateway as local property taxes.

The British Columbia Chamber of Commerce works to enhance the business climate in BC. Established in 1951, it now represents over 32,000 businesses over every size, sector and regions of the province.

John Winter is President & CEO of the BC Chamber of Commerce.