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To the Enbridge Joint Review Panel: Can We Justify This?

Feb 26 2013

Kai Chan, Canada Research Chair and associate professor at UBC's Institute for Resources, Environment and Sustainability, shares his comments to the Joint Review Panel (JRP) for the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline.


Good morning, panel members, and thank you very much for hearing me today. My name is Kai Chan. I am an associate professor and Canada Research Chair in the Institute for Resources, Environment and Sustainability at UBC. I want to clearly distinguish my comments as those based on my values and those based on my science. So, I first speak to you as an impassioned BC resident, a father of two little girls, and a lover of this coast and province. I came to BC for a year when I was 7 years old, and the place got under my skin then. These spectacular coastal systems—human communities included—are a part of me. Eight years ago, this deep connection to this place lured me back and has kept me here since.


I am not a knee-jerk environmentalist. I believe in a sustainable future, in which my children and my children’s children, and so on, can all live in a world as beautiful and giving as ours, undiminished by our actions. But I know that such a future includes resource extraction, so I accept—even welcome—such extraction and transport under some conditions in some places. For me, the Northern Gateway Pipeline is not one of those cases.
As a citizen, it seems that at its simplest, we are asked to contemplate the economic benefits of the pipeline against the risks that it poses to forests, watersheds, the coasts, and the myriad human activities and benefits that depend upon those.

Of course I care about the economic well-being of the province, and of the country. Of course, I’m affected by the economic signals that politicians pay so much attention to. We’re deeply attuned to such information, which is so measurable, so constant, so here & now. But I know that in the long-term, even the most optimistic promises of economic benefits can yield only tiny boosts to my well-being, or that of BC residents in general. I will return to this point.
On the other hand, I’m deeply afraid of the very realistic scenario of a large oil spill on this coast. Following Enbridge’s own numbers, I accept as a reasonable start Gerald Graham’s estimates o
f 8.7 – 14.1% risk of the one or more tanker spills of 31,500 barrels over a 50-year period (a spill in the range of the Exxon Valdez).

This is a very sizable risk of a tremendous harm to birds, at-risk (federally listed) sea otters, other marine mammals, fish, and shellfish—and to the thousands of British Columbians who depend on these animals and ecosystems for their livelihoods. Not to mention the millions of us who have this wild living coast as a part of us, whose identities are intricately intertwined with this coast. At the larger pipeline size, with a risk of 14%, that’s effectively the same risk as in Russian Roulette. That’s loading a six-shooter with a bullet, spinning the chamber, and holding it to your head. I don’t play those games, and I’m here to ask you not to let others play them with our coast, and with our children’s and grand children’s coast.


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Your Comments

  • Comment #769

    Thanks, Kai! FYI, the URL above is a link to my Letter of Comment to the Pane.


    Gerald Graham, Ph. D.

  • Comment #770

    The fact is? It’s not worth the risk to us. Corporations take the money and run and most time we’re left with the long term damage. Be creative and make the money with things not risking the environment.

  • Comment #776

    We are really thankful to the author of this post for making this lovely and informative article live here for us.
    Texas Gun Trust

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