Not any more

Native burial grounds, aged infrastructure among concerns over Alberta pipeline

In Canada on August 11, 2010 at 08:59

WHITECOURT, Alta. — Regulators need to make sure the construction of Enbridge Inc.’s proposed Northern Gateway pipeline respects local landscapes, including native burial grounds, wildlife habitats and farmland, a review panel was told Tuesday.

The three-member panel heard presentations from five people in the first part of a session meant to gather opinions on what the scope of the hearings on the pipeline should be and where they should be held.

Sheila Leggett, vice-chair of the National Energy Board and panel chair, acknowledged in her introductory remarks that the project had attracted much attention, both in opposition and support. She told the audience of about 30 people that their comments would be reviewed, summarized and posted once all the sessions are complete.

Two more public sessions will take place in Prince George and Kitimat, B.C., the slated end point of the proposed pipeline.

Enbridge is seeking authorization to construct and operate two 1,172-kilometre pipelines from Bruderheim, north of Edmonton, to a new marine terminal at Kitimat.

One of the pipelines will carry petroleum products westward, while the other carries condensate back east. (Condensate is used to thin petroleum products for pipeline transportation.)

The majority of presenters in Whitecourt, 180 kilometres northwest of Edmonton, made it clear they support the pipeline or at least weren’t opposed to it, but there were several issues people wanted addressed.

Bob Walker runs a trapline north of Whitecourt that he said had been affected by oil and gas activity in the past.

“We consider ourselves to be farmers out there, on the trapline. But we believe we’re stewards of the land,” he said, explaining that the Enbridge pipeline would run 10 kilometres through his trapline area.

“I don’t want to stop progress, he said. “I just want them to be very aware of environmentally sensitive areas along it.”

Walker told the panel he was also speaking on behalf of aboriginal friends who want to make sure the project respects native burial grounds in the area.

One burial ground is within 90 metres of the pipeline route and during construction, he said, it’s possible that in a metre or two of snow, those working on the pipeline could easily disturb the area.

Walker also expressed concerns the route is running in the same corridor that already houses two other pipelines. He said that proximity could be a big problem if something goes wrong in one of them.

“Take Michigan,” Walker said, referring to the recent spill there in the Kalamazoo River. “What bad timing for Enbridge.”

But Daryl Yagos, a councillor for Woodlands County, expressed confidence in the company.

Yagos told the panel the county fully supports the project, believing that it will greatly enhance economic growth in Whitecourt and the county. “I’m not worried about anything going wrong with the pipeline itself during the construction or operation of it.”

Other farmers in the area, though they support the project, are more wary about what might happen when the pipelines age or are no longer in use.

“Abandonment issues are a real concern for us as farmers,” said Carl Christman, of Sangudo. “Pipelines don’t last forever. Probably in my lifetime I won’t see a problem, but my kids will.”

He said he’s worried about the financial implications of pipeline abandonment and wants to make sure landowners won’t have any liability.

The panel session in Whitecourt is expected to wrap up Wednesday.

Postmedia News

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