British Columbia

Enbridge pipeline panel demands scathing U.S. spill report

The federal panel reviewing the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline has demanded Enbridge submit as evidence a U.S. government report condemning the company's conduct during the 2010 oil spill in the Kalamazoo River, Mich.

United Church of Canada voices pipeline opposition

A Canada goose covered in oil makes its way along the Kalamazoo River after an Enbridge pipeline ruptured in Marshall, Mich. in 2010 (Andre J. Jackson/Detroit Free Press/Associated Press)

The federal panel reviewing the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline has demanded Enbridge submit as evidence a U.S. government report condemning the company's conduct during the 2010 oil spill in Marshall, Mich.

The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) report was published in July, but Enbridge has not tabled any information about the spill, which leaked 3.3 million litres of oil into the Kalamazoo river, coating wildlife.

Now the Joint Review Panel assessing the company's proposed oilsands pipeline from Alberta to B.C. has tabled a detailed request asking Enbridge to supply the synopsis report and the final report by noon MT on Sept. 4.

The move follows a CBC interview with independent economist Robyn Allan, who revealed that the report had yet to be entered as evidence into the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline hearings.

According to rules set out in section 36 of the National Energy Board Rules of Practice and Procedure, the party submitting the evidence has to have had a hand in preparing it and be able to answer questions about documents being submitted or otherwise confirm their accuracy.

The panel rejected earlier requests from two interveners to have the U.S. report submitted into evidence because the interveners did not meet those criteria.

In the interview broadcast on CBC Radio's The House, Allan said Enbridge was underestimating the risks posed by the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline because the company's risk assessment excluded the Kalamazoo spill.

The NTSB report concluded there was a complete breakdown of safety at Enbridge and that employees at Enbridge failed to recognize that the pipeline had ruptured and was continuing to pump oil into the surrounding area.

The cleanup costs have been estimated by Enbridge and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency at $800 million US, making it the single most expensive onshore spill in U.S. history, according to the NTSB.

The panel's request to Enbridge, submitted on Tuesday, also requires the company to answer tough questions about the safety of the proposed pipeline, including issues of leak detection, construction defects and threat assessments.

Church opposition

With public opinion against the Enbridge pipeline mounting, the United Church of Canada announced on Wednesday its delegates have adopted a resolution expressing "categorical" opposition to the pipeline proposal.

According to a church statement, the resolution was proposed by the Native Ministries Council of British Columbia Conference, after consultation with church leaders, aboriginal elders and congregation members.

One of the church's biggest environmental concerns is the size of the super tankers required to transport the crude oil from the Enbridge pipeline to China and the subsequent enormity of any possible spills and resulting environmental damage.