EDMONTON - Enbridge insists estimates of environment damage from construction of the Northern Gateway pipeline have been overestimated, because sections of the line will be built in areas already disturbed by a new natural gas pipeline, the federal review panel heard Thursday.
Enbridge lawyer Bernard Roth also questioned the expertise of economist Matthius Ruth, whose report for the Haisla Nation estimates the cost of environmental damage at between $254 million and $775 million for construction along the 1,700 kilometre route from Bruderheim northeast of Edmonton to Kitimat on the British Columbia coast.
That estimate includes cutting trees on the kilometre-wide corridor, crossing rivers and habitat damage, the Joint Review Panel was told.
The proposed $6-billion pipeline will carry 525,000 barrels of Alberta bitumen a day to Kitimat.
Enbridge proposes to use already disturbed land for about 80 per cent of the route, including areas already logged, old roads and along part of the 463-kilometre Pacific Trail Pipeline route, now under construction from the Prince George area to Kitimat.
"Through the entire Haisla territory, the PT pipeline is in the same corridor as the Northern Gateway," said Roth. Any environment impacts there have already occurred and should not be attributed to Enbridge, he said.
"If a road and power line is already constructed and we use the same right of way," how does Enbridge's pipeline cause additional damage? asked Roth.
But Ruth said the environmental costs might be higher because of the "cumulative effects" of two pipelines running through fragile ecosystems.
"Any new project will put additional stress on the environment," he said.
The Haisla Nation is a partner in a proposed liquefied natural gas facility that will ship natural gas from northeast B.C. to China. But they oppose the Enbridge bitumen pipeline because of fears that spills of the sticky product would pollute the water along the coast.
Roth said it's unfair to attach to a pipeline project the additional cost of greenhouse gases emitted in producing the bitumen, shipping it to Asia and burning the resulting gasoline in cars — a total calculation of $206 million in the Matthius report.
"These are indirect costs," he said.
Earlier in the day, a witness for the provincial government told the panel that building the Northern Gateway is just one way to handle the increased bitumen production underway in the oilsands.
Other solutions include upgrading the bitumen to synthetic crude oil, expanding refining capacity in Alberta or slowing the pace of development, said Harold York, author of the Wood Mackenzie report done for the Alberta government.
Oil producers will need other ways, besides the Gateway pipeline, to handle the increased amount of bitumen, he said.
In response to questions from the Alberta Federation of Labour, York noted that to get the price increase producers want, Alberta bitumen must be sold into "coking" refineries that can first upgrade it.
If it is sold to conventional refineries, it could only be used to make lower value fuel oil. That could lower the selling price of the bitumen, he said.
Montreal Gazette, Thurs Sept 27 2012
Byline: Sheila Pratt, The Edmonton Journal