It's been a sad week for workplace accidents in Alberta.
Five workers have died in as many days, in unrelated accidents.
The first accident happened Monday and involved a man who was on a scaffold, which rolled into a hole on a work site near Wainwright.
There were three deaths on Wednesday and a fifth on Friday, one involving a 19-year-old man who was killed after a ramp fell on him at a site near Conklin.
According to Gil McGowan, the President of the Federation of Labour, the government talks a good game in workplace safety but doesn't put their money where their mouth is.
"For years Alberta has had the second-highest rate of workplace fatalities in the country and we do have a very fast-paced labour market and economy," he said. "But even given that history, five deaths in one week is virtually unprecedented and for us in the labour movement, it really raises a red flag."
McGowan adds Alberta still has fewer workplace health and safety inspectors than virtually any other province per worker and is pushing for more since we have more workers in dangerous occupations than other provinces.
"We also have a government that is very, very reluctant to prosecute employers who break the rules and put their workers at risk," he said. "A lot of employers unfortunately think that there aren't that serious consequences for breaking the law when it comes to workplace safety and that needs to change."
No work will be completed on the sites as the deaths of the five workers are being investigated.
660 News, Sat Oct 20 2012
Byline: Megan Robinson and Chris Bowen
EDMONTON - Five people are dead in as many days after a spate of workplace accidents around the province this week.
Occupational Health and Safety spokesman Brookes Merritt said the incidents are not related but appear to be "a tragic coincidence."
Alberta Federation of Labour president Gil McGowan said the number of workplace deaths is deeply troubling.
"Five fatalities in a week, even in a face-paced economy like this, is almost unprecedented, and certainly unacceptable," he said. "It demonstrates there is still a lot of work to be done."
Merritt said the first fatality happened Monday and involved a 56-year-old man who was on a scaffold that rolled into a 1.2-metre hole on a work site near Wainwright. Merritt said the worker was ejected from the scaffold, hit his head during the fall and was taken to hospital by air ambulance. The man died on Thursday morning.
On Wednesday afternoon, a man fuelling a forklift at Mo Tires in Lethbridge was pinned between the vehicle and a shed. He was pronounced dead in hospital.
A third worker died about 10 a.m. Thursday after falling inside a chimney stack at the Battle River power plant southeast of Edmonton. He died at the scene.
Later that day, around 1:30 p.m., a 19-year-old man died after a ramp fell on him at the Blackgold oilfield site near Conklin.
A fifth worker was killed at about 4:45 a.m. Friday at a work site 25 kilometres south of Grande Prairie. In that case, a 29-year-old man died after being crushed between a piece of heavy machinery and a tank.
"Any time we see a fatality at the workplace it's tragic," Merritt said. "Investigating this number of fatalities in such a short period of time is equally tragic, if not more so."
Merritt said investigators are also looking into a case where three workers were injured at a site northwest of Edson on Thursday morning. The three were hit by a disconnected snubbing hose and were taken to hospital, one by air ambulance, with undisclosed injuries.
Stop-work orders have been issued at all of the sites, and investigators are looking into what happened in each case.
"Our Occupational Health and Safety investigators are determined to investigate each incident rigorously and ensure that the results of this investigations help us learn how to prevent similar incidents in the future," Merritt said.
McGowan said the deaths should be a "red waving flag" for government and industry, showing that the issue of workplace injury and death is still not being properly addressed.
He said the deaths underline a need to increase the number of workplace safety inspectors in the province, which he said still lags behind other provinces.
With about 20 per cent of the province's population working in high-risk industries such as construction and the oilfield — more than double the percentage in most other provinces — McGowan said Alberta should also have a greater than average number of inspectors.
"We hear a lot of rhetoric from the government and employers, but neither group seems to be putting its money where its mouth is," he said. "The death toll continues to mount."
Human Services Minister Dave Hancock was not available for comment on Friday.
There have been 103 work-related fatalities in Alberta this year; 37 workplace fatalities, 28 motor vehicle accidents, and 38 from occupational diseases. There were 43 deaths from workplace fatalities and 28 from motor vehicle accidents in 2011.
Merritt said there are currently 122 OHS investigators in the province, and there will be 132 by the beginning of 2013, an increase of 30 officers from 2009.
"The department is continuously looking at how best to use its resources to achieve its ultimate goal — to have no workplace injuries or fatalities in the province," he said.
Edmonton and District Labour Council president Brian Henderson called the week's deaths "horrible."
"When we have this many fatalities in one week, it just further elaborates how much workplace safety needs to be given priority with this government," he said.
Henderson said in addition to more investigators he wants to see stiffer penalties for companies found guilty of workplace health and safety violations.
"It's not just finding an employer guilty and giving them a fine ...," he said. "With five (deaths) alone this week, what is really being done out there?"
Jeff Wilson, Human Services critic for the Wildrose Party, said he, too, thinks government should do more to support workplace safety, including by further increasing investigators and identifying high-risk employers.
"The strength of our economy rests on workers being safe and secure in our workforce, and we have to do what we can to make sure they get home safe every night," he said.
The Edmonton Journal, Friday Oct 19 2012
Byline: Jana E. Prudent
Food inspectors say a management takeover at the plant at the centre of Canada's largest beef recall will not impact their decision about if and when the facility can reopen.
In a statement issued Thursday, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) said the fact management of the shuttered XL Foods plant in Brooks, Alta., will be handed over to a subsidiary of processing company JBS USA will not affect its review of the facility's procedures and products.
Wednesday's deal also gives JBS the option to buy the Brooks plant as well as other XL facilities and operations.
"The CFIA's decisions have been, and continue to be, based on scientific evidence and a precautionary approach to protect consumers," said the agency.
The meat-processing plant currently at the centre of Canada's largest beef recall, which includes about 2,000 products, had its licence suspended Sept. 27 following concerns about E. coli contamination.
The CFIA last week began an inspection of the plant after XL said it had made the required changes to get its licence back.
On the weekend, the company temporarily laid off 2,000 workers, then recalled 800 of them Tuesday so inspectors could continue their assessment. The employees were back out of work Wednesday.
Alberta Premier Alison Redford Thursday said reopening the plant continues to be a priority for the province, as does the promotion of Alberta beef as a safe and healthy product.
"We've been working very hard to get that plant open as soon as possible so that it doesn't adversely impact either beef producers or employees," she said.
Provincial Agriculture Minister Verlyn Olson said he's taking the transfer of management to JBS as "a good sign that XL is serious about the continued operation of the plant," adding JBS is highly respected in the industry.
Olson, who is in continued talks with federal Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz, wouldn't comment on whether the JBS deal suggests previous management problems at the Brooks facility.
"We are not looking to point the finger at anybody who's at fault here. We're not looking for a public flogging, we just want the plant open, producing safe food," he said.
Meanwhile, Doug O'Halloran, president of the union representing XL workers, said he and Gil McGowan, president of the Alberta Federation of Labour, sent Redford a letter asking her to reconsider a public inquiry into the situation surrounding XL.
He also wants food-safety inspections to be moved under the federal government's health division as opposed to the agriculture division.
SunNews, Thurs Oct 18 2012
Byline: Jenna McMurray
About 200 workers from the UFCW Local 1118 are on the picket line outside of the Lilydale Foods Inc plant, which processes Turkeys near Yellowhead.
Nancy Furlong, Secretary Treasure of the Alberta Federation of Labour tells iNews880 the workers make much less than employees working at a Chicken processing plant and turkeys are much bigger.
"They're actually making less than other workers processing poultry," explains Furlong. "They are quite different processes, but in the Lilydale turkey processing plant the work is harder because these birds are much larger."
Despite the timeline of events, Furlong says the workers remain optimistic.
"These workers have been steadfast in their desire to get a collective agreement and they aren't being paid the same as workers in other parts of the province and they should be," explains Furlong. "They need a settlement that will give them a decent living."
Furlong says workers also want a guaranteed 36-hour work week.
"They're going to insist these workers have to vote again on an offer they rejected eight weeks ago," explains Furlong. "We were having a rally today to show these workers that the rest of the labour movement actually supports their right to make this decision and to take strike action if they can't get a decent contract."
The workers will vote Tuesday on an offer they rejected 8 weeks ago, but Furlong says if they can't get a decent contract the workers will be taking more strike action.
The workers remain on the picket line outside of the plant.
iNews880, Mon 2012 Oct 15
Byline: Travis Dossier
The union representing workers at the XL Foods facility in Brooks says plant officials are ignoring their concerns about food safety.
Doug O'Halloran, president of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 401, says managers will not meet with them to discuss outstanding issues.
He says cleanliness and safety need to be the priority.
The union is holding a news conference Wednesday, along with the Alberta Federation of Labour just one day after the owners issued a statement saying they have corrected all problems outlined by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.
Meantime, one top researcher believes those who have gotten sick from eating contaminated meat will need to be monitored for several years.
Dr. William Clark studied the long-term effects of E. coli infection after the massive outbreak in Walkerton, Ontario, more than a decade ago.
Clark believes those individuals will be at risk for long-term health problems moving forward.
But many Albertans appear to be unfazed about E. coli and are still willing to back the beef industry.
A Sun News online poll found 60 per cent of respondents are comfortable with eating beef in the midst of the nation's largest meat recall.
Twenty-four per cent said they're not eating beef; 16 per cent say it depends on how it's prepared and if it's on the CFIA's recall list.
E. coli was first detected at the Alberta plant on September 4th and the first public health alerts were issued 12 days later.
Twenty countries have received affected products, including the United States where officials estimate more than 1.1-million kilograms have crossed the border.
660 News, Oct. 10, 2012
Cleanliness suffers as beef moves too fast at Alberta meat plant shut down over E. coli concerns, union says
BROOKS, Alta. — The union for workers at an Alberta meat packer shut down over E. coli concerns says the pace of slaughter operations forces workers to take shortcuts around cleanliness and puts the health of beef-eating Canadians at risk.
Doug O'Halloran, president of the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 401, said the processing line at the XL Foods Lakeside plant in Brooks moves too quickly and he wants to see a public inquiry into the problems that led to the plant's shutdown.
O'Halloran told a news conference Wednesday that between 300 and 320 carcasses go by workers every hour and employees make between 3,000 and 4,000 cuts a shift. That has resulted in less time in which to make sure knives are sanitized after each cut.
"It's just not enough time," O'Halloran said. "We are calling on Lakeside to take it seriously. You can replace all the aluminum, all the stainless steel you want at the plant, but if you don't give your workers the tools to perform the job properly, we're not going to solve this problem."
O'Halloran cited other examples of poor hygiene at the plant.
He said cattle are supposed to be washed before they enter to ensure their fur is free of manure. But sometimes the water is not hot enough to get off all the excrement.
He also said excrement from the cattle has backed up on the killing floor at times and forced workers to traipse through the waste and track it through the plant.
O'Halloran said the plant's increasing reliance on temporary foreign workers is also a problem. The company has not worked with the union to ensure the workers are properly trained and know what their rights are, he added.
The union boss said whistleblower protection is needed for workers who are afraid to speak out about problems for fear of reprisal.
"Lakeside, you've got one chance to get this correct. We understand you're spending lots of money, but you're still not listening to the people who are the most important in your food safety — the workers who are doing the job. "They are going to get you through this day and it's time you woke up and listened to them."
There were about 80 front-line workers from the plant packed into the media conference room at a Brooks hotel. Most refused to comment, saying their English was poor or they were fearful of getting into trouble.
Wilfer Garcia, who has been working at the XL Foods plant for close to two years after coming to Canada from Colombia, expressed sympathy for those on the line.
"To do a piece of meat, they need, say, 30 seconds to do each one, but because there's less people, more pieces are coming and they have to put pieces on top of the other ones. It makes a problem," said Garcia, who works in packing.
Even if several employees don't show up for work, the pace and expectations remain the same, Garcia said.
"One way or another there's not enough employees for the 4,000 pieces that they process every day," he added.
No one from XL Foods Inc. was available for comment. The company has limited its communication to news releases since an expansive recall began.
Earlier this week, co-CEO Brian Nilsson issued a statement saying the company had fixed the problems that forced food safety officials to shut down the plant. He expressed regret over "the illnesses caused by the consumption of beef products."
Inspectors with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency were at the plant on Tuesday for what was termed a pre-inspection. A report from that visit was being reviewed Wednesday.
Agency spokeswoman Lisa Gauthier said the pre-inspection is just one step in a multi-step process to determine if the plant is safe to resume operating.
O'Halloran said the food agency and the federal government share some of the responsibility for what has happened.
He said while the 46 agency staff the federal government says are positioned at the plant do a good job, they are overworked and don't have the authority they need to shutter operations when things go wrong.
"Somebody better wake up and put some teeth in the CFIA because they don't have any teeth now."
Although the workers have been paid for 32 hours a week since the plant has been shut down, it's a far cry from the 40 hours most work on a regular basis.
"You don't know where your money is coming from," added Christa Josephson.
Her friend Jenn Lupanko said the workers wake up every day hoping to hear some good news. The uncertainty has been tough, she said.
"It's quite difficult when you have a family and you have rent and bills and cars, but you do what you have to do," she added.
"But I think it will be fine. I think Lakeside will come out of this and it will be better than it was."
Gil McGowan with the Alberta Federation of Labour and Alberta NDP Leader Brian Mason said the province has a role to play in pushing for more oversight.
"Our provincial government has to do more than act as cheerleaders for the industry," McGowan said.
"This has damaged the brand of Alberta beef in a way that has been very, very serious," added Mason.
To date, 12 people in four provinces have been infected by a strain of E. coli that has been linked to the plant. The latest case is in Quebec, the Public Health Agency of Canada said Wednesday.
The bacteria in beef from the Brooks plant was first discovered in tests done by U.S. officials at the border on Sept. 3.
The U.S. stopped accepting shipments of beef from the company on Sept. 13. A recall of ground beef was eventually issued Sept. 16 and has been expanded numerous times.
The CFIA revoked the plant's operating licence on Sept. 27.
More than 1,800 XL Foods products have been recalled across Canada, along with more than 1.1 million kilograms of beef exported to the U.S. and 20 other countries.
Simply allowing the plant to reopen will not solve all of the problems that the recall and closure have caused the beef industry.
Officials estimate the Brooks facility sends about 60 per cent of the beef it slaughters to the United States. More than two dozen retail chains in more than 30 states are involved in the beef recall.
The XL Foods plant in Brooks has 2,200 workers, the town's largest employer.
O'Halloran did commend the company for paying workers during the shutdown.
Brooks Mayor Martin Shields said there hasn't been much of a ripple effect in the community since workers are still getting paid.
"Brooks is a little sensitive to a lot of the negativity that is being focused on our community that we don't think is accurate," he said. "Does this add to that negativity? Yes, but we believe the cattle operation will be back. "
A lot of the union's complaints are not new, Shields added.
"People have a short memory because I've heard this with the previous owner and the owner before that. To me, this is a union lobbying for things that they want," he said.
"It's an opportunity for them to gain some airtime for their issues and their issues can be very valid, but to me that's a union employee and a business issue and it is up to them to work that out.
"What you see is concern and the workers are anxious: 'Am I going to go back to work? Do I have a job?' Because the rumours are just unrelenting in what could happen. If you're a worker there you're absolutely concerned.
"I'm optimistic the plant will be reopened soon."
National Post, October 11 2012
Byline: Bill Graveland, Canadian Press
Union holds news conference to discuss safety protocols, meat production expectationsThe union representing workers at XL Foods Inc. is calling for a public inquiry into the massive beef recallat the company's meat-packing plant in Brooks, Alta.
Doug O'Halloran, president of the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 401, said the federal government is to blame for cutting back on much-needed funding.
"We don't think the government can do the inquiry, we think they are part of the problem," he said at a news conference Wednesday afternoon.
O'Halloran said Canadian Food Inspection Agency inspectors are doing a good job, but added there needs to be more of them.
He also voiced concerns that CFIA inspectors don't have the authority to shut down a line if they think there is a safety concern.
O'Halloran said employees have been getting paid since the closure of the plant, and urged employee involvement going forward.
“It’s tragic that we had to have this situation, but I think in the long run we’re going to have an industry that’s better, that’s greater," O’Halloran said.
"We want to work with XL, we want them to be part of the solution, but they’ve got to listen to the workers.”
Employees speak out
XL Foods employee Wilfred Garcia says workers feel pressure to keep production lines moving — sometimes at the expense of food safety practices.
"There's not enough employees for the 4,000 pieces they process every day...and that's why there's this problem too," Garcia said.
XL 'saddened' by union claims
XL Foods released a statement late Wednesday afternoon in response to the union. The company said management has always been open to discuss plant operations with workers.
“I am saddened that the UFCW has chosen to attack the workmanship of its many members. We have extensive training programs for new workers and hold our workers in the highest regard for their abilities,” said co-CEO Brian Nilsson in the release.
The statement also noted that the line speed at XL Foods is within regulatory requirements.
Quebec E. coli illness confirmed
O’Halloran's comments came just before a 12th case of E. coli was confirmed. A Quebec investigation linked an illness in the province two weeks ago to E. coli O157, the strain at the centre of the XL Foods investigation. The affected individual has since recovered.
That brings the total of E. coli cases to 12 — seven cases in Alberta, one in Newfoundland, one in B.C. and three in Quebec — according to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.
'Culture change needed'
Gil McGowan, president of the Alberta Federation of Labour, said Wednesday there needs to be a change to the employer's approach to food safety.
"There is a culture in that plant that puts priority on quantity over quality and until that changes we’re going to continue to struggle," said McGowan.
Keith Warriner, director of the University of Guelph’s food safety and quality assurance program, said there has been a lot of finger-pointing over food safety at the plant.
“In a lot of ways, it’s passing the buck,” said Warriner.
“Workers passing the buck to the management, management passing the buck to the CFIA.”
Warriner also said it was “obvious” to him the CFIA is complacent in stepping back.
XL Foods silence 'damaging'
Alberta's Wildrose Party Leader Danielle Smith said XL Foods’ silence over the E. coli problems at the Brooks, Alta., plant has been damaging. “I think that the principal responsibility now for communicating with the public comes down to the company,” said Smith.
“I'd like to see XL Foods, someone, stand up in a press conference with the regulators at their side and talk about what they're doing to restore confidence to make people aware that they've taken this seriously, they apologize for it.”
Smith also said federal and provincial officials may not have done everything possible to deal with the situation.
Alberta NDP Leader Brian Mason said repeated comments from federal officials that the system works well were ridiculous.
“They're not interested in getting to the facts and finding out what went wrong and being honest and straightforward and transparent with the public about something as important as the safety of the food that they eat and serve their children," said Mason.
"We need to have an inquiry and find out what in fact went wrong.”
The Lakeside Packers plant shut down Sept. 26 after the CFIA linked the facility to several beef products tainted with E. coli. More than 1,800 products have been recalled.
CFIA expanded its beef recall again Wednesday night to include some beef jerky sold in New Brunswick and corned beef sold in Quebec. Product details can be found on the CFIA's website.
Agency officials said they will check safety controls and determine if XL Foods has fixed the problems that were uncovered by federal inspectors.
On Tuesday, XL Foods said it had addressed all the safety issues and concerns raised by the CFIA.
"The company has completed implementing corrective action requests issued by the CFIA following the findings of their investigation," XL Foods said in a statement.
CBC News, Oct 10 2012
CALGARY — As inspectors descended on the shuttered meat processing plant in Brooks, Alta., Tuesday, the company behind the country's largest beef recall issued its first comments in days.
"We have worked diligently to address all corrective actions and want to thank our employees who have worked tirelessly to prepare us for this inspection," said XL Foods co-CEO Brian Nilsson in a statement Tuesday.
"We will continue to work co-operatively with the (Canadian Food Inspection Agency) as they conduct due diligence and verification of our intensified and enhanced food safety systems."
The CFIA began an inspection of the XL plant Tuesday after the company issued a recall on meat products -- now up to 1,800 different items -- due to E. coli contamination concerns.
The CFIA suspended the plant's licence and inspectors slapped XL with demands, many of them sanitation-related.
Eleven cases of E. coli -- one in B.C., seven in Alberta, two in Quebec and one in Newfoundland and Labrador -- have been linked to XL, says the Public Health Agency of Canada.
The news release said members of the XL community "deeply regret the illnesses caused by the consumption of beef products. Our thoughts are with the affected people at this time."
Guy Gravelle with the CFIA said more information on Tuesday's assessment at the plant would likely be made public Wednesday.
"We're still waiting to hear back from the people we had on the grounds," he said.
The leader of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 401, which represents staffers at the plant, said there is still a desperate need for "food safety culture" at the facility.
Doug O'Halloran said for years the union has voiced concerns about training for temporary foreign workers, line speed and the need for whistle-blower protection. "We've dealt with other CEOs in the meat packing industry, but we've never come across anyone who wouldn't at least meet with us to talk about food safety," he said.
O'Halloran and Alberta Federation of Labour president Gil McGowan will hold a news conference in Brooks Wednesday.
Meanwhile, XL's handling of public relations -- communicating with media only through occasional statements -- was criticized by Alberta Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith during a luncheon in downtown Calgary.
"I wish the company, XL Foods, had taken a page from Maple Leaf (Foods) when they had their tragedy in 2008," she said, referring to the listeriosis outbreak that killed 22 people.
"The CEO (Michael McCain) was very up front about it, gave press conferences, kept the public informed," she said.
Smith called for a full review once the plant is reopened to understand what broke down in the regulatory and communication processes.
Toronto Sun, Tuesday, Oct 09, 2012
Byline: Jenna McMurray, QMI Agency
With files from Michael Wood
The sister of a Sherwood Park man who drowned on the job in Fort McMurray is urging workers to watch out for each other.
Christopher Fontaine, 32, was found dead on Sept. 26 in a tank he'd been working on at a water treatment plant. His shift ended at 5:30 p.m. but his body wasn't found until the next day.
Catheline Fontaine questions why her brother was working by himself. She believes her brother's death could have been prevented if someone had checked on him.
Catheline Fontaine believes her brother's death could have been prevented. Catheline Fontaine believes her brother's death could have been prevented. (CBC)
"His truck was left in the yard, and everything, so it's like, how could you forget about somebody like him?" she asked. "He was so caring."
Fontaine took the unusual step this week of making a plea to Alberta workers in a full-page newspaper ad which was purchased by her brother's employer, Bird Construction.
"Look out for each other, we're all in this together and make sure you've all gone home safe, don't work alone," the ad reads. "I hope you remember this page and take care of each other and then my brother didn't die for nothing."
Fontaine says the ad was also a tribute to her brother.
"I just wanted everybody to know who he was and what he meant to me, because I guess I never really told him myself," she said.
Employers also responsible, labour group says
"Honestly, that ad really tugs at my heartstrings," said Gil McGowan, president of the Alberta Federation of Labour.
McGowan argues workplace safety is a shared responsibility.
"We simply can't continue putting all responsibility for getting home safe at the end of the day on the shoulders of the individual workers," he said.
"We also need employers holding up their end and we need governments holding up their end and right now, in too many cases, that's not happening."
Occupational Health and Safety and the RCMP continue to investigate Chris Fontaine's death.
CBC News, Friday, Oct 05 2012
The technical hearings on economic issues raised by the Northern Gateway pipeline recently concluded in Edmonton. In these quasi-judicial hearings, Enbridge and intervenors (labour organizations, First Nations, environmental NGOs and the provinces of BC and Alberta) presented expert testimony and cross examined the experts of other parties. The Northwest Institute summarized the 15 days of hearings. Here are some highlights.
Cross examination of Enbridge Experts
Labour: refine the dilbit in Canada and create jobs
The Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL) questioned the export of raw dilbit (diluted bitumen, the tar sands' crude oil) rather than refining it in Canada. Enbridge responded that markets aren't looking for refined oil. They are looking for feedstock for their own refineries. No one could make money doing it, according to Enbridge, so there would be no benefit to Canada. Ninety percent of the claimed benefit to Canada is the "price uplift" that Enbridge claims will raise the selling price for all Canadian oil producers.
In later questioning, the AFL asked an expert for the Government of Alberta about the $8 per barrel "discount" for tar sands crude. The Alberta expert explained that tar sands crude fetches its highest price in the limited number of refineries capable of refining it for optimal value. When those refiners reach capacity, the price for tar sands crude drops $8. The $8 discount would be avoided by the Northern Gateway during its first year. Any pipeline (Northern Gateway, Keystone, Trans Mountain) would have the same "up lift" but, after the first few years, more heavy crude than refining capacity will trigger the discount and things will be back to where they are. Still, the Alberta expert concurred with Enbridge that, in his government's view, building upgraders in Alberta would not be commercially viable.
BC: an underinsured pipeline
The Province of BC questioned Enbridge about its insurance coverage. Enbridge stated that it was looking at exposure of $60 million for the cleanup cost of a spill once every 250 years. BC noted that works out to $280 million for a 20,000 barrel spill. That's the size of the spill in Kalamazoo which has already cost more than $767 million. BC also questioned whether the proposed separate corporate structure for the pipeline was intended to limit the liability of the corporate giant. Enbridge denied this. It stated that it would not consider a commitment to guarantee 100% of the clean up.
eNGO Coalition: National benefit from a pipeline that is half foreign owned?
A coalition of environmental NGOs (Forest Ethics Advocacy, Living Oceans ad Raincoast Conservation Foundation) established that Enbridge has ten potential funding participants who may each acquire a 4.9% interest and suggested that foreign ownership of the pipeline would impact the purported national benefit. Enbridge responded that the corporate structure would be modified for Enbridge to retain a controlling interest.
Later, the Coastal First Nations noted that, given 47% foreign ownership of Canada's oil and gas industry, that same percentage of the asserted $17 billion of benefit to private interest presumably would leave the country.
Chris Peters: Externalized cost of greenhouse gas emissions
Chris Peters, a Prince George engineer, calculated that the "well to wheels" greenhouse gas emissions would be 37 million tons (2/3 of BC's total emissions in 2010) and suggested this social cost should be entered into the equation. Enbridge responded that Canada is not responsible for emissions it exports to other countries, underscoring Peters' point that the social costs of the emissions enabled by the proposed pipeline are not accounted for anywhere.
Haisla First Nation: An undersized study
The Haisla First Nation's traditional territory will have more impacts than other First Nations because it is affected by all three aspects of the proposal: the pipeline, the terminal and the super tankers. The Haisla established that Enbridge gave different financial forecasts to different audiences – higher to the public, which inflates the claimed public benefit of a "price lift," - and lower to investors.[xii] Enbridge responded that the different forecasts were insignificant to the project's viability. The Haisla also raised concerns that the condensate costs and risks were not adequately addressed. Enbridge responded that this was the responsibility of the shippers. The Haisla noted that Mark Anielski's "natural capital and ecological goods and services" study included no impacts beyond the right of way, no river or salmon impacts and less land than the pipeline would actually occupy.
Coastal First Nations: Enbridge admits that a spill is 93% likely
The CFN noted that neither the provincial nor federal governments have exclusive jurisdiction to decide whether the project will proceed given that the First Nations have never ceded their traditional territories. The CFN couldn't evaluate impacts to salmon because they hadn't been provided the necessary information. "Whose responsibility is that?" CFN council asked. Enbridge responded that they had tabled sufficient information for a determination by the JRP.
Enbridge agreed that there is a 93% chance of a tanker spill, terminal spill, or full bore pipeline rupture happening within 50 years. In a heated exchange, CFN pointed out that there was no accounting of the social costs of the conflict that the pipeline would cause if the project goes forward.
Economist Robyn Allen: risks from tanker traffic increases are exponential
Enbridge's questions to the Alberta Federation of Labour panelist economist Robyn Allen allowed her to point out that if the pipeline were to increase from its stated capacity (525,000 barrels per day) to its potential capacity (850,000 barrels per day), this would increase tanker traffic by over 50 percent as well as activity in the marine terminal. "Risk is not additive," she said. "It is exponential."
JRP panelist Kenneth Bateman asked Allen about the value of Enbridge giving a "parental guarantee" that it would backstop all costs of a major oil spill. When Allen stated Enbridge won't entertain that, Bateman implied that it could be required by the federal government.
The technical hearings will continue through December. Beginning October 9, the JRP will convene in Prince George to hear expert evidence regarding the construction and impacts of the pipeline. Beginning November 22, the JRP will travel to Prince Rupert to hear expert testimony on marine and First Nations issues. Community hearings in southern BC are scheduled to begin in January 2012. The final arguments on technical evidence will be in April, 2013. The 2012 Federal Budget and Bill C-38 require the JRP to submit its report by the end of 2013. The federal cabinet will make the final decision.
Earth Matters, Oct 05 2012
Byline: Carrie Saxifraze