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NEWS RELEASE · 2nd November 2011
Merv Ritchie
On August 31, 2010, I addressed the Joint Review Panel in Kitimat. My presentation is on record and I have copied it in full below. I am registered to address the Panel when it reconvenes again in the region.

My opinion has not changed from this presentation to today. The only addendum I would add is on the refining and the tankers.

First, the Tarsands/Oilsands (what ever the company wishes to call the product), must be refined at the source, in Alberta, near to the mines. This will make any potential spill a less toxic and hazardous mess. Further, if it is eventually transported by pipe, the product would be less corrosive to the interior walls of the pipe, by a factor of 16 according to recent reports.

Second, on the tankers. My position is the product must be shipped containerized, just like the Cosco containers, but double skinned. The bunker fuel for these tankers must also be in the same style of container. This would help prevent a similar disaster to what is occurring in New Zealand today. It is the fuel for the tanker that is leaking, not the cargo. And still with the tankers, their construction today versus the 1970's construction model is comparable to our cars and trucks. The frames are weaker and the steal is much thinner. The "state of the art" is a tragedy of cost reduction. Read the details by clicking here.

Copied directly from the JRP hearings transcript records located at this link.

1810. Mr. Merv Ritchie? Mr. Ritchie?

1811. MEMBER MATTHEWS: Welcome back, Mr. Ritchie. Thanks for helping us out and attending this evening sessions. For the record, could you please state your name and the spelling of your name?

1812. MR. RITCHIE: My name is Merv Ritchie. It's M-E-R-V R-I-T-C-H-I-E.

1813. MEMBER MATTHEWS: Okay, please proceed with the response to the questions.


1814. MR. RITCHIE: I must thank the Haisla for allowing me to speak and be on their territory, and Chief Jassee, the High Chief of the Haisla People, and of course for all the participants and for you being here so everybody gets their point of view across.

1815. Just a little bit of a preamble. I have attended, almost without exception, every presentation regarding all proposed pipeline projects in this region of B.C. since 2006. I have attended these presentations put on by both promoters and dissenters as an independent unbiased reporter.

1816. I have also participated in, reported on and recorded various other types of industrial resource and economic ventures in this northwest corner of B.C.

1817. I have researched and studied some of the history of the proposals for the region back to the 1970s and even so far as back to the beginning of the Industrial Development Act of B.C. proposed by W.A.C. Bennett for the creation of the Aluminum Company of Canada, Alcan.

1818. One of the recent events I wish to address actually began in the mid-1970s when a proposal was made by the consortium of American entities calling themselves Kitimat Pipeline Limited to build a pipeline much like what is being proposed today by Enbridge Northern Gateway Project. This project was specifically designed to bring a petroleum product into Douglas Channel to supply Alberta.

1819. It was later shelved and proven not required. More recently in the past four years various proposals for the construction of pipelines for a variety of products have been presented to the local municipalities of the region and to the government body of the Regional District Kitimat Stikine.

1820. All of these presentations were accompanied by grandiose claims for the demand, the market and economic benefits to the region. None have come to fruition. One of the more striking, recent striking examples of such a claim was a proposal by Kitimat LNG. Their proposal was to construct a pipeline to import natural gas in 2006. The Federal Minister of the Environment gave the project the go-ahead in August of that year.

1821. The project was to begin construction in 2007 and be in production by 2009. However, no more than one year later a new proposal of Kitimat LNG was presented to build a pipeline to export natural gas.

1822. It is difficult to accept any of these claims of market demand when they seem to change so dramatically and so quickly. The Kitimat LNG project is still not in operation.

1823. In my 50-plus years of life experience and interaction within the economic community, I have come to understand the primary financial driver of any project is the stock market whether it be on New York’s Wall Street, Toronto’s Bay Street, or Vancouver’s Howe Street. A question could be asked about the share a stock market plays of both Kitimat LNG and Enbridge. All of their respective news releases might and most probably do affect the value of their shares.

1824. It is my considered opinion that this Joint Review Panel must discover a way to comprehend and differentiate between the economic reality and the economic fallacy of this project, to determine if this is not just a stock market play to increase share value at the expense of the vast current economic wealth of this region.

1825. To the point of my presentation: I am here to request the Joint Review Panel highlight one of the topics of consideration and to request the Joint Review Panel add to the list of locations where the Joint Review Panel should conduct its hearings.

1826. On the subject of topics of consideration - not listed in the Draft List of Issues but it is listed in the third page in the addendum under part 3 as alternatives. On the subject of alternatives, I’m here to explain why I believe alternatives to the transportation of the product must be accentuated on the agenda.

1827. The Joint Review Panel and the National Energy Board has been delivered the request by Enbridge for the approval of the construction of two pipelines, one to carry the condensate to Alberta to thin the raw bitumen so that it will flow in other pipelines, and the condensate is also required for the pipeline they are planning to build to ship the bitumen out.

1828. The condensate is currently being shipped by rail car east to Alberta. This simple fact demonstrates Canada already has an infrastructure in place to deliver the product to the marketplace. Canadian National Railway, though belying its name not a national corporation, already has an under-utilized transportation system direct from Alberta to the Pacific Coast. By CN’s own estimation they have the capacity today to transport close to 10 times the proposed capacity of the pipeline system being put forward by Enbridge.

1829. The funding for the construction of the pipeline, Enbridge’s pipeline, is accompanied by numerous conditions. End users of the bitumen product, whether it be China or some other refining country, must secure and pay for a specific quantity regardless of what they are actually able to take delivery of. This condition along with others will restrict and control the marketing of this Canadian resource.

1830. It is for these reasons I am suggesting and requesting the Joint Review Panel take one step backwards as they prepare their deliberations. The Panel, though formulated to consider the proposal by Enbridge, could and should back up one step they have been allowed to take, and first consider the market demand. If a demand is identified and is considerable, the next step in the process should be does Canada wish to export the product and not refine it first?

1831. If the answer to this is, “Yes, we wish to export it”, the next topic should be what is the best method to transport the product? Not what we have here before us today; an application for a method to deliver the product to the market which contains within it exclusionary principles to other potential customers.

1832. Although I am a simple layperson with no degrees of any kind, no history in the petrochemical industry and no experience in the commodity transportation systems, I can see easy and advantageous alternatives to the proposed pipeline. If I can develop a seemingly simple or basic alternative, I am sure there are others who can offer even better alternatives should they be encouraged to provide it.

1833. As one example to elucidate the claim I’m making, I wish to draw your attention to the newly constructed container port in Prince Rupert. The largest vessels in the world call on this port, delivering containers loaded with goods for the North American market. The rail line operated by CN carries these containers east. The containers come from various suppliers and are delivered to various end users. This transportation method opens the market up for the product to innumerable end users.

1834. Currently, the proposal envisions the raw bitumen being pumped into a high-pressure pipeline at the source, the tar sands of Alberta. When it arrives at the shore, the Douglas Channel at Kitimat, it is to be removed from this pipeline and placed in large storage containers.

1835. When a tanker arrives we carry the bitumen - when the tanker arrives to carry the bitumen to the end users, the product is removed from the tanks, pumped under pressure into the tanker. The same process takes place in reverse order at the destination, the end user’s port location.

1836. At many points in this process we have the opportunity for spillage and accidents. The concept I as a layman would propose is to ship the bitumen in the same manner as we currently ship other goods, in containers. Just as the condensate comes in on rail cars today, we might consider exporting bitumen in the same manner with one significant difference. The tanker cars could be fabricated just like containers - removable and stackable.

1837. The benefits of this simple consideration are immeasurable, innumerable. First, the bitumen would never be exposed to the elements of the environment except at the point of production - in this case the tar sands - and the end user’s destination as suggested in this case, China.

1838. The fabrication of additional rail cars and the modification of the present rail cars would obviously present additional costs. However, the expense of constructing and running a pipeline needs to be factored in with the benefits of not constructing the pipeline.

1839. The capacity of ship transporting the product across the pacific might be reduced. However, the risks are also reduced. If a tanker ran aground or broke up in high seas, all of the product would remain contained. The tank could be used in both directions, importing condensate and exporting bitumen. And if the market changed, such that different products were required, importing rather than exporting, the same system of transport would already be in place.

1840. Just like containers, the end user could own their own tankers or they could be provided by a new enterprise for a user fee. This seems somewhat similar to the requirement of the end user to subscribe to a quantity of crude production prior to the construction of a pipeline, essentially an up-front financial commitment.

1841. This Joint Review Panel has the opportunity to provide some direction and advice to the federal government on not just this specific product but on the concept surrounding the potential for the export of bitumen and other products which cross provincial boundaries.

1842. If Canada was to recommend or even impose a different transportation model, one which would allow for a better open market and at the same time potentially provide a much safer model in terms of the environment, we might discover less resistance and more acceptance by various groups currently opposed to the transportation of crude oil.

1843. In the very recent past, the huge spills of oil by both tankers, offshore rigs, and onshore terminals such as the recent spill in China this past July at Dalian have raised the demand of citizenry all over the world to offer better protections to the environment and the oceans.

1844. It no longer seemed acceptable to transport these products in such hazardous manners. It seems obvious a tanker is simply a bathtub full of oil waiting for an opportunity to spill the entire cargo.

1845. A high-pressure pipeline also seems to be a large hazard as that which was displayed in Burnaby in 2007. Kinder Morgan’s pipeline, its leak was immediately apparent to the excavator operator that punctured the pipe and to the neighbourhood which got soaked, yet it still took almost a full half-hour to shut down, even with the terminal only a short distance away.

1846. Again, I’m a simple layman. I can offer potential solutions to meet various concerns and provide alternatives. It is my considered opinion that the Joint Review Panel should open-up the discussion to professionals, both much smarter than I, to offer alternatives to the current proposal in front of the JRP today, not leave this as an end-note to an end-note.

1847. Alternatives. And the short - on the second topic I wish to present is a location for the hearings. Much shorter.

1848. All the various coastal and northwest communities, large and small, must be visited to allow those who cannot travel and those who cannot afford to travel to have their voices heard.

1849. Allowing for applications for funding to attend is not a reality for most of the residents of this region. These folks - these forms and applications are foreign to most.

1850. On Facebook today, numerous residents of Haida Gwaii are expressing disappointment on their inability to be here in Kitimat, even today. It therefore is my request - and I am sure I am not alone - that the learned people take the appropriate measures and attend every community, not just on the pipeline route, but also the many surrounding northwest communities and all of the Pacific Coast communities.

1851. My home community of Terrace is the hub service community and is home to the majority of the regions residents. Prince Rupert is the home for many coastal residents. Hartley Bay must be considered. It is they that rescued the B.C. Ferry passengers; always first responders. All of Haida Gwaii, Masset, Skidegate, Port Simpson, Greenville, Kilcolith, Canyon City, Aiyansh, Bella Bella, Bella Coola, Stewart.

1852. In the Interior, we have Rosswood, New Hazelton, Kispiox, the Village of Hazelton, Glen Vowell, Kitwancool. Back on the coast, Metlakatla; even Ketchakam. It should not be up to the residents of these communities to find a way to come to you.

1853. It is a very serious duty and responsibility this Panel has. You must come to each community and discover the sensitive and integrated lifestyle, life-sustaining manner your deliberations might impact.

1854. Rather than they learning about you and this proposed project, it is you that needs to learn from them.

1855. I thank you for listening. I know this has been a long day and I hope your potential exhaustion has not diminished the impact of my humble opinions.

1856. Thank you.

1857. MEMBER MATTHEWS: Great. Thanks a lot, Mr. Ritchie, and we’re wide awake and we heard everything you said. Thanks a lot.

1858. I don’t know if my colleagues have any comments or questions?

1859. Okay. Thank you.

1860. MR. RITCHIE: Thank you.

Well spoken
Comment by M S Craven on 3rd November 2011
My respect for you deepens Merv. I truly hope Terrace voters support you as Mayor.
Comment by blocky bear on 2nd November 2011
Great job Merv!! d.b.
There are solutions, they're our solutions !
Comment by terry on 2nd November 2011
Very well articulated, as always Merv.
I only wish that they might take heed.
Don't ever stop trying for us.