NEWS RELEASE · 21st January 2011
Residents from communities impacted by recent oil spills come to Vancouver to share their painful stories
Personal stories from oil spill regions touched and activated nearly 200 audience members last night in Kitsilano at a panel discussion organized by ForestEthics. Warnings were given in light of Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline proposal that would ship tar sands 1,170 kilometres to the coast at Kitimat, and introduce oil tankers to BC’s north coast for the first time ever.
“Enbridge was slow to react when they spilled nearly a million gallons of crude oil into our communities along the Kalamazoo River last summer. The company has made many promises that they’ve failed to keep in the clean-up process,” said Beth Wallace, who grew up in Battle Creek and now works with the National Wildlife Federation. “If I lived in the mountainous regions of Northern British Columbia, I would not trust that Enbridge, or any other company, could build these pipelines safely.”
Audience members signed on to support Liberal MP Joyce Murray’s Private Members Bill that would ban oil tankers in the province’s north coast. The Coastal First Nations, including the Gitga’at, have banned oil tankers from their traditional territories.
“No one can guarantee us that there will be no spills. If Enbridge’s project goes ahead, the company is essentially forcing us to live in fear, which will have effects on both our health and our economy. And who has a right to risk the destruction of any community?” asks Kyle Clifton, Marine-use Planning Coordinator for the Gitga’at First Nation.
The Gitga’at have already had a taste of how an oil spill could impact their community from the sinking of the Queen of the North in 2006. Members from Hartley Bay were integral in the rescue efforts. The ferry is still on the bottom of the ocean leaking oil despite commitments to remove the risk.
“If they let oil and gas come to coastal BC, expect damage, damage, damage,” said Mike Roberts, Louisiana commercial fisherman. “If Enbridge tankers are let through, don’t expect that to be the end of it. More and more companies will want to come in after them.”
Last year’s massive BP oil spill tragedy in the Gulf of Mexico might be out of the media spotlight, but it’s an on-going struggle for Louisiana residents.
“Everybody’s stressed out. If you take a personal claim for $5,000, you have to sign your rights away to sue any oil company and sign all of your kids’ rights away to do the same,” said Tracy Kuhns, Louisiana Bayoukeeper. “We haven’t even begun to see the health impacts that have come out of this. There are already a lot of sick people -- there’s going to be an emerging health crisis in the Gulf Coast.”
ForestEthics sponsored the panel discussion that took place Thursday, January 20th at St. James Community Hall in Vancouver. ForestEthics is concerned about how this project will impact the legacy of the Great Bear Rainforest. Enbridge’s project would introduce over 225 oil tankers to BC’s North Pacific Coast and yet face no liability for an oil spill. A recent study shows that tax payers would end up paying the bill for a significant oil spill in our inside coastal waters.