Feature Story                                                                                                Sunday, March 16, 2014


Pipeline Perils

Anti-pipeline disciples get food for thought at Town Hall

Staff/Voice photos


Lubicon Cree Melina Laboucan-Massimo speaks at pipeline Town Hall meeting last week in Chilliwack. Below, Andrew Nikiforuk gave a fire and brimstone speech.


hundred people crammed the Best Western ballroom last Friday for a Town Hall meeting hosted by the Chilliwack chapter of the Pipe Up Network.


For two hours, they heard journalist Andrew Nikiforuk, Alberta Lubicon Cree Melina Laboucan-Massimo and Liz McDowell from Conversations for Responsible Economic Development, speak about the perils of shipping bitumen in pipelines.


The audience gasped and shuddered as photos of the Kalamazoo spill were splashed on the overhead screen.


Some in the audience weren't activists in the sense of the word, but landowners affected by the pipeline, and curious about how a twinning of the Kinder Morgan line could affect property values.


Fiery keynote speaker, Andrew Nikiforuk, delivered an edgy talk with a passion rarely seen in Chilliwack.


The journalist, fact-bombed and speared the audience in the guts with economic details, illustrated with charts and graphs. His discourse, punctuated throughout with startling and sublime  information, gleaned from years of oil patch fact-finding and research missions in Alberta.


After the speeches, panelists fielded questions from the audience.


The Voice caught up with Nikoforuk as he was leaving. We spoke as we walked to our vehicles outside.


You're talking about exporting jobs to the US?

We are exporting every time when we are not upgrading and refining bitumen at home. We are exporting those refinery jobs to the United States. In fact, the United States is already upgrading and refining our bitumen.


My understanding is that all the refineries in the US are paid for with the exception of one, but Canada doesn't have this infrastructure to get the value added here.

Canada has 7 up-graders and 17 refineries. What we don't have is a policy for adding value to the resource at home. Simply by putting a tax on the export of raw bitumen would create that industry. Just put a tax on the export of raw bitumen and companies would say 'Whoa, okay, maybe we should be upgrading this stuff here?'


Do you think shipping oil by trains is going to increase pain at the pumps?

No. Shipping oil by trains is almost the same as shipping oil by pipeline. The economics in many cases of shipping oil, particularly if that oil is coming from tight oil formations in North Dakota, where you experience rapid depletion, why would you invest in the capital infrastructure for a pipeline if you're not going to have that oil around very long.


You know in oil sands, you're going to have it for 50 years. It's not the same in North Dakota. I've looked at the economics between the two, and it's a false choice. It's not a pipeline or rail. Industry is using both at the moment. They're already using pipelines and they're already using rail. The issue is the pace and the scale of development and I think we've gone too far, too fast.


It's been driven by low royalties and low taxes. We're giving away the resource. We've had no conversation about the money and saving for future generations.


Norway has a fund. They've saved $900 billion. Canada has no fund, we've saved nothing. There's no national policy even about oil wells and what do you do about it. Right now it's being used around government and the World Bank and people are saying 'That's the worst thing that you can do with our money.


It's a once-in-a-lifetime lottery winning. You will not see it again and piss it away on every day activity and don't corrupt your government with that money.


In your mind, is transporting oil on trains, less safe than pipelines?

It depends on what you're transporting. If you're transporting tight (shale) oil from North Dakota, that stuff is as flammable as can be. That's really dangerous if you allow that without putting it in the proper cars for inspections and having full transparency.


Irving oil is asking suppliers to upgrade tanker cars (Dot 111), isn't the cost of that going to be passed on to the consumers?

Well, isn't that called responsible development to do it that way rather than incinerating 50 people in Quebec?


So, it would increase the cost of gas then?

It all depends. What is being proposed is... we're paying high prices for gasoline as it is now. What we are asking is that the companies be more accountable in their transportation practices and not slough-off these liabilities onto rural municipalities, cities, counties, land owners, which they are now doing.


Twenty-five years ago, I attended a sustainable development conference with Dr. David Suzuki. Reporters went after him for not riding his bicycle to the event.

If you have wood in your home, or if you own furniture, therefore you don't have the right to criticize forestry practices that are clearly bad and damaging ways or whatever. I mean what a ridiculous argument.


We're all members of a fossil fuel economy and we have every democratic right to criticize its excesses and also the power and balances driven by this economy. That's the most important issue here; money and power, and accountability.



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