Vaughn Palmer: Enbridge ‘Doomed’ Following Damning Indictment for Kalamazoo Spill


Read this column from Vaughan Palmer in The Vancouver Sun on Enbridge’s sinking chances at building its proposed Northern Gateway pipelines following a damning report from US regulators on its 2010 spill into the Kalamazoo River in Michigan. (July 11, 2012)

Opposition leader Adrian Dix was quick to make political hay Tuesday out of a U.S. regulator’s finding that Enbridge officials responded like the “Keystone Kops” to a spill from one of their oil pipelines.

What happened south of the border could happen here, suggested Dix, a sworn opponent of the company’s proposal to construct a 1,000-kilometre pipeline across northern B.C.

Underscoring the point, he started his news conference by reading a telling passage from that day’s findings by the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board on Enbridge’s handling of a July 2010 spill into Michigan’s Kalamazoo River:

The fracture of the pipeline along a flaw identified five years earlier and duly ignored. The company’s 17-hour failure to respond to alarms, all the while pumping oil through the two-metre-wide rift and into the waterway.

The fact that it took workers from another company to make Enbridge aware of the spill and finally set in motion the necessary procedures to shut off the flow.

“Learning about Enbridge’s poor handling of the rupture,” read Dix, quoting safety board chair Debbie Hersman, “you can’t help but think of the Key-stone Kops.”

Keystone Kops is presumably a cute shot by the U.S. regulator at the proposed (and very controversial) Keystone pipeline, which would transport Canadian oil to American refineries.

But Dix had no difficulty turning the riff to his own purposes, as he waded into the B.C. Liberals and Premier Christy Clark over what he perceives as their dereliction of duty on the proposed Northern Gateway project.

Clark’s failure to say where she stands on an oil pipeline that, in her own characterization, offers B.C. much risk and limited benefits. Plus her government’s failure to submit any evidence of those presumed risks before the filing deadline for the current National Energy Board hearings on the project.

The B.C. Liberals and their leader have gone “absent with-out leave” on the Enbridge file, declared Dix, in the most quotable line from the midday press conference at the Opposition offices in downtown Vancouver.

As he spoke, reporters were still digesting the findings of the latest poll of public opinion, an Angus Reid survey that provided cause for good cheer among New Democrats and nothing to hearten Clark and the Liberals.

Yes, the numbers can change. But it is increasingly hard to imagine a scenario that will reverse Clark’s personal disapproval rating (64 per cent), her dismal standing with women voters (they prefer Dix by a margin of three to one), and the responses from more than half of those surveyed that their opinion of her has “worsened” in the past three months.