Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Enbridge ready to address concerns over oil pipeline

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EDMONTON -- Enbridge officials say they are pleased they'll have a chance to address concerns raised about their proposed Northern Gateway pipeline when environmental review hearings resume next week.

Janet Holder, a vice-president of Enbridge Inc. (TSX:ENB), said when the next phase of the review begins on Tuesday, it will be the first opportunity for the Calgary-based company to be heard at the review process.

"We are pleased to have the chance to share our extensive reviews, our economic studies and our findings from our consultations with the communities along the right-of-way," Holder said in a statement issued Friday.

"It is important to us that we address the concerns and show how we have considered the reservations that have been expressed in the hearing to date."

Enbridge has proposed the construction of a 1,200-kilometre pipeline that would deliver 525,000 barrels a day of crude from the Alberta oilsands in Bruderheim, Alta., to a tanker port to be built in Kitimat, on the British Columbia coast.

A twin pipeline would carry condensate, a product derived from natural gas that is used to thin petroleum products for pipeline transport.

It's a $5.5-billion project expected to spur $270 billion in economic growth in Canada over 30 years.

When the environmental review process began earlier this year, the proposal was met with waves of critics.

Environmentalists and many of the northern B.C. First Nations whose territory would be traversed by the subterranean pipelines believe the risks of a pipeline rupture or oil tanker spill are too high.

There have been protest rallies, and early on in the process, at least one hearing -- in Bella Bella, B.C. -- was cancelled because of tensions with demonstrators.

However, as the hearings wore on into summer and ventured farther from the pipeline route, scheduled hearings were cancelled because so few participants had registered to take part.

Then the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board released a scathing report into a spill from an Enbridge pipeline into the Kalamazoo River in Michigan in July 2010.

Likening the company's reaction to the spill to "Keystone Kops," the report cited deficiencies in the company's Edmonton control room in the spill of 20,000 barrels of oil into the Kalamazoo River that affected more than 50 kilometres of waterways and wetlands and cost $800 million to clean up.

When the hearings resume in Edmonton on Tuesday, it will enter the questioning phase, where the company's experts and its critics will be able to talk face-to-face about the potential problems and benefits of the pipeline.

"We have heard how concerned Canadians are regarding the potential for spills," Enbridge says in its opening statement.

Those concerns were exacerbated by the 2010 spill in Michigan, it says.

"Canadians have asked why and how that event happened, how Enbridge responded to it and how we can be satisfied that a similar event won't happen in Canada. Northern Gateway understands the importance of those questions, and will answer them as this hearing proceeds. We accept that we must take all practicable measures to make sure that there will not be a repeat of the Marshall event on the Northern Gateway Pipeline system."

The company will address questions about pipeline and tanker safety, says the statement.

"Northern Gateway acknowledged and respects the positions taken by First Nations, and in particular those in the coastal areas, regarding the risks posed by marine transportation and pipeline operations," it says.

-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 1, 2012 B8

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