An hour long meeting left Village of Burns Lake councillors with just six minutes to publicly discuss the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline project.
John Phair, member of the Lakes District Clean Waters Coalition, who is openly opposed to the pipeline, made a presentation to council as a delegation.
During the recent All Candidates Forum, Phair had also asked candidates for the seat of mayor and councillors elected by acclamation, Quentin Beach Susan Schienbein and Frank Varga if, going on the information they have collected to date, they supported the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline project. Only Beach and Schienbein stood up and answered the question, indicating that they did not support the project.
Phair said to council, “We are concerned that, although you have spent considerable time with representatives of Enbridge, there have been no public forums, no exchanges of information and little indication that our concerns are being heard.”
Phair went on to say that the public are being asked to buy into a colossal experiment. Diluted bitumen is not crude oil. We do not know the long term effect of diluted bitumen on pipelines or tankers. It is more acidic, contains sands and is pumped at high temperatures and under high pressures, The mounting evidence is not encouraging.”
Coun. Eileen Benedict asked Phair where the group is getting all of their information about the pipeline from.
Phair responded that some of the information was taken directly from the Enbridge website and other information was from various internet sites.
Local, Donna Brochez said that she and her family are opposed to the pipeline, however in the event that it does go through she said the community should be prepared with a wish list for a community style fund similar to the Nechako Kitimaat Development Fund Society.
“I am not selling out, but they are a big company with financial backing. It seems we always miss out on great opportunities and I think, as a community, we should figure out what Enbridge can do for us.” She went on to say that the community is in need of a new hospital, a community centre and local infrastructure is in need of repair.
Councillor Eileen Benedict said, “We don’t make the final decision, but during the community advisory board meetings we have talked about what will happen if the project goes through. We have discussed a community legacy fund.”
Brochez said she is curious about the benefits Enbridge officials discuss and said she wonders how much red tape there will be. Our community is one of the closest to the pipeline so we might be able to use that as an advantage to see what we could do.”
Councillor Beach said, “So if there is not enough money, you are opposed, but if the dollar amount is right you would switch sides?”
Brochez said, “It is not a certain amount of money I am looking for, I am not selling out at all. It’s just an idea and if this does happen it would be nice to have our ducks in a row.”
“It’s like buying life insurance,” said Coun. John Illes.
Local resident Helene Brunette said she is also not in support of the pipeline. “There is volcanic soil near Houston and a lava bed near New Hazelton. There is a risk of a big earthquake in Vancouver and we are thinking of putting toxic products through the province. There are three fault lines near Burns Lake,” she said.
Councillor Illes said, “There are three fault lines near Burns Lake? … interesting.”
According to the Natural Resources Canada website, Geoscape Canada, there are three minor inactive bedrock faults in the Burns Lake area. For more information go to www.geoscape.nrcan.gc.ca.
Carla Lewis, son Levi and mom Hilda also spoke on behalf of the Wetsu’wet’en First Nation saying they are representing three generations that are opposed to the pipeline.
Carla said, “We are opposed based on six years of dealing with Enbridge. First Nations are opposed and we think the village needs to work on relationship building so we can work together. In the end it is going to come down to First Nations. The best case scenario will be that the project will be tied up in court for a very long time.”
Gwendolyn Nicholas said her family is also opposed to the project. She said her dealings with the company has been less than favourable and mentioned that it was not until Enbridge was threatened with legal action that they removed a New Leaf Cafe staff member’s photo from a pamphlet promoting the pipeline.
Council Illes said, “We are council for the Village of Burns Lake. The pipeline doesn’t go through Burns Lake … we would be effected if it bursts, it would go into our water.”
“We are a community. It is not going through my house either, but we are all part of one community,” said local resident John Barth.
“Is council the voice of the community?” Coun. Illes asked.
“Council is a very important voice of the community. That’s why you get elected, so I think the answer to that question is obvious,” Barth replied.
Vivian Tom, councillor with the Wetsu’wet’en First Nation said she is also opposed to the pipeline.
“Are we prepared to clean up the mess. Has there been any research on how a spill would effect the land and animals and how much a clean up would cost?”
“What does Wetsu’wet’en feel about the Pacific Trails Pipeline?” asked Coun. Illes.
“We are also opposed. It goes through a quarter of our territory … that’s too much already.”
Council later decided that village staff would investigate the possibility of holding a referendum.
‘”I am opposed to the pipeline. We need to put the eco back in the economy … how long do we keep borrowing against the environment? The consequences are huge,” said Coun. Beach.
During the regular meeting of council that followed, councillors made a motion to contact the University of Northern B.C. to facilitate a public forum on the topic, with council taking a lead role.
“I like the idea of council taking a lead role, if we do it, then there is not that controversy surrounding the meeting. It will be a good opportunity for the public to engage in a discussion,” Coun. Strimbold said.