Monday, August 02, 2010

We still have to live together

Published in the Kitimat Northern Sentinel Editorial, July 28, 2010.
In the coming month Enbridge will be coming to town. 
No, a decision has not been made about the pipeline, the Joint Review Panel will be in town to solicit local opinion as part of the review process. 
The decision is a simple "yes" or "no", but the outcome is complex. 
"Yes" to the pipeline may simply mean jobs in Kitimat. 
The town and the region need jobs, this isn't a matter of more jobs in an area with an abundance of employment opportunities. 
The Eurocan closure and the reality it may never reopen eliminate one possibility for new jobs. 
Rio Tinto Alcan modernization means jobs during the upgrading, but there will be no more hiring when the upgrade is complete. 
In the short and long-term, Enbridge would likely be stable jobs with good wages. 
The complicated part of "yes" is the risk. 
Enbridge may argue the risk is small, but the risk still exists. 
The consequences of a pipeline leak are bad, but a tanker accident would be worse. 
The BP leak in the Gulf of Mexico illustrates the need for regulation, planning and oversight, but not much else. 
If a pipeline leaks it can be shut off somewhere in less than 90 days.
A tanker has a finite amount of cargo and will stop leaking when it empties even if it sinks. 
Exxon Valdez, though, does have lessons for us. 
Besides again demonstrating the need for regulation, planning and oversight, it also shows the long-term impacts, of a tanker accident on the environment, the community and local economy. 
Oil from the Exxon Valdez still pollutes the shoreline, Exxon fought the community for twenty years to avoid paying compensation it promised and could afford, and the local economy has never recovered from the impact to the fishery. 
The risks to Kitimat may be small, but the consequences are great. 
The other risk Kitimat faces in this process is its sense of community. 
My point in showing the risks and benefits above is not to show my impartiality, but to show both arguments have valid points. 
And people who take one position or another have valid reasons. 
Reasons which may be different from yours. 
And this does not mean they are bad, blind or stupid. 
It means they've weighed the consequences and come to their own conclusion. 
People in favour of the pipeline are not necessarily soul-less corporate whores only motivated by dollars; people against the pipeline are not necessarily, pot smoking, vegan, enviro-weenies who care more about seals than men and women who need jobs. 
You may be able to change their mind to your view, or may be they'll change your view to theirs, but neither view will make you, people like you or people whose views differ from your own bad. 
Some people in the community will make logical, cogent, well-expressed arguments.
Other people will make passionate, emotional, barely rational arguments. 
Neither person is bad. 
The risk to Kitimat's community is rather than seeing the opposing arguments as good or bad, people making the arguments will be seen as good or bad.
And this may be worse to the community than lack of jobs or risk of spill.

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