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KITAMAAT VILLAGE, B.C. — Ellis Ross, the elected chief of the Haisla Nation, hasn’t come lightly to his view of Enbridge Inc.’s proposed Northern Gateway pipeline.
The thoughtful leader of the 700-member community on the shore of Douglas Channel has immersed himself in the study of energy markets, risk of spills, and how the energy sector tends to behave when accidents occur. He has also personally been involved in spill response, in jobs in government and in the private sector.
The pipeline will not be allowed under any condition by the Haisla, the aboriginal group most affected by the $5.5-billion project. It’s not about anti-fossil fuels ideology, environmentalism or dirty oil, said Mr. Ross, who is no green ally and would look at home in any corporate boardroom.
It’s because of the oil industry’s past practices and its long history of passing the buck rather than taking responsibility when something goes wrong, he said.
“They can’t guarantee they are not going to spill oil and they are not going to guarantee they can pick it up,” Mr. Ross, 47, said in an interview.
“Of course these people in Ottawa, Alberta, Saskatchewan, are willing to take the risk because they don’t live here.”
“Take a couple of tons of crude oil, and dump it in their front yard, and see how they feel. We have tremendous amounts of experience here. We do not have blinders on. We are not just focused in on the environmental issues or getting bought off at a higher price. We look at everything we can so we can make an informed decision and, more importantly, so we can bring that information to the community so we can vote on it.”
The Haisla will be the hosts and first participants Tuesday on the first day of hearings of the Joint Review Panel of the National Energy Board and the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency into whether the oil sands pipeline from Alberta to Kitimat is in the national interest and can be built safely.
The hearings will be held in the recreation centre of this immaculate aboriginal village nestled between tall mountains and the ocean.
Mr. Ross said the community, which relies mostly on government income, has been greatly impacted by decades of industrial development in the area and is weighing carefully all initiatives based on all their aspects, from whether they are financially viable to their impacts on the land.
For the rest of this column, please go to the National Post/Financial Post website: http://business.financialpost.com/2012/01/09/no-pipeline-under-any-condition-haisla/