TERRACE city council is sending deputy fire chief Dave Jephson on an Enbridge-sponsored tour to visit the site in Michigan of a 2010 spill from one of its pipelines.
The spill into the Kalamazoo River of an estimated 1 million US gallons of oil, which went undetected for hours, increased opposition to Enbridge’s plan to build the Northern Gateway pipeline across northern B.C.
Enbridge had offered to fly one council member as part of a 20-person delegation from along the Northern Gateway pipeline route to Marshall, Michigan on May 8 to view the cleanup and speak with local officials.
Enbridge spent $820 million on the cleanup by last summer and may spend an additional $175 million, the company reported. It has also been fined by American authorities.
“It really came down to who was available from our management team to attend on relatively short notice,” said city administrator Heather Avison.
“Having said that, as an emergency responder. Dave has a good understanding of how any type of emergency should be handled,” she said.
Council members, in discussing the invitation April 22, cited work obligations and lack of passports as reasons no one from council could go on the trip.
Councillor Brian Downie, who voted to stay neutral in a 2012 council vote that ultimately declared Terrace’s opposition to the Enbridge Gateway pipeline, and Councillor Stacey Tyers, who was part of the ‘no’ vote, weighed in on the Michigan invitation.
“It is a very short trip. It’s very scheduled,” said Tyers. “… My own perspective is that it’s propaganda.”
Tyers said that her sources describe the cleanup effort in the Kalamazoo as flawed.
“The last time I spoke to someone about it they said it looked perfectly clean until you stuck something down to the bottom,” she said.
Downie said he thinks the tour will provide a valuable firsthand perspective on an important issue.
“People will ask the tough questions,” Downie said. “We want to find out the facts.”
“What we know is what we’ve read in the news,” Downie continued. “All I’ve seen are the blips that come out of Global or somewhere else. The initial stories were not positive, they had organization issues, but I haven’t heard anything recently.”
Downie said that since the Gateway pipeline proposal is now in the hands of a National Energy Board panel, the tour of the Kalamazoo River won’t have much of an impact on the final decision about the future of the Enbridge megaproject.