Day Six: February 21, 2006, part 2

On Tuesday the JRP returned to Inuvik. Stephen is working in Ottawa. So, his blogging is again done by Paul Falvo in Inuvik.

Long day … we started late at 10:30am, due to late arrival last night (this morning) from Tsiigehtchic yesterday. But, we ran until 9:30pm.

WWF led the parade in the morning Technical Hearing with a presentation by Dr. Peter Ewins and Dr. Gordon Orians. It was an exciting and busy day. More on this — and the JRP’s dissection of Imperial’s community consultation to follow. (See the transcript to see how the drama unfolded)!

Hearing resumed in the evening to continue a General Hearing scheduled originally for Thursday, February 16th.

Ron Gruben of Inuvik Hunters and Trappers Committee said his group is concerned for the land, environment and animals. The proponent will want to keep feeding the pipeline with gas for the duration of its life — meaning more exploration. His Committee asked the oil companies to reroute the line because they harvest caribou, grizzly and fish from this untouched, prime land. Construction will disturb the grizzly. They will leave as they did before, during seismic work. He cited the example of a grizzly that left its den — in February — because a road for seismic was too close.

The MGP will have also a significant effect on marine animals. The oil companies want to build an airstrip at a site near his harvesting areas in the Husky Lakes Management Area. People have always said no development there. They have used this area for generations, teaching their children to live off the land in their traditional way of life. This is the area where they harvest caribou and smaller animals for food and income. The MGP will have also a major effect on migratory bird species that use this area when they migrate and in the spring for nesting.

Gruben expressed concern about Shell’s barging facility is in the Kendall Island Bird Sanctuary, adjacent to a proposed marine protected area where they harvest beluga whales, migrating birds and fish of many species for food.

Gruben said he looks at the life of the pipeline as being more than just 2 – 3 years, with a significant impact on harvesting. He was born in Tuk in 1961. He was taught to live off the Land; he also learned the schooling way. He worked with industry in the 70s and 80s. They left. He is still here.

His people have a lot of bad memories. He thinks it will be different now that they have a signed land claim. But, when they see scars left on land it still hurts. They knew then that what industry did wasn’t right.

Randy Ottenbreit replied that Imperial is not in a position to know what success exploration programmes will have. They have provided additional capacity in their gathering system with the intention of accommodating other company’s gas and reducing the need for additional feeder lines.

Clearly, Ottenbreit said, the MGP will serve as encouragement for people to explore for more gas.

Ottenbreit has stressed many times that he cannot speak for other companies. However, in this instance he had no trouble committing Shell and ConocoPhillips to sit down to discuss mitigation and compensation.
Chief Charlie Furlong (also a director of the proponent Aboriginal Pipeline
Group) spoke on behalf of the Gwich’in Tribal Council. He brought greetings from Grand Chief Fred Carmichael (chair of the Aboriginal Pipeline Group). He reiterated his concern for the environment and support for the MGP. He said his people are concerned about social issues. His people have concerns about protecting their traditional way of life and the environment. However, he believes the promised $500M will alleviate many of these concerns. He urged the public to bring its concerns forward. He stressed the need to educate each other on the project to promote mutual understanding. The Proponent and environmentalists, he said, are trying to educate us on effects of the MGP. He feels the Gwich’in need to educate all concerned through traditional knowledge workshops. He welcomed people to the land of the Gwich’in and Inuvialuit.
Duane Smith spoke on behalf of Inuvik Community Corporation — one of six subsets of the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation. He spoke of some areas of concern regarding potential impacts on ICC beneficiaries, including:
– loss of traditional lands for gathering wildlife, berries and plants, as well as nomadic practice of living on the Land;
– importation of outside influences, including people coming in with a detrimental impact on Inuvialuit family values;
– need for methods other than sumps to dispose of drilling waste, because reports indicate they have varying degree of failure, and risk of exposure to the environment because of the changing nature of the Delta;
– noise pollution from air traffic to staging areas and around Parsons Lake airstrip;
– would prefer routing with less impact on environment;
– Shell barging facility is a concern — he proposes a monitoring programme; and
– disintegration of their language — 3 dialects — will be intensified by influx of Southerners.

Kim Johnson of Shell confirmed his company has applied to use a drilling sump for waste disposal.
Inuvialuit Beneficiary Richard Gordon spoke next. He got very emotional, saying there are very few of his people that will talk from the heart. Many tell him they don’t care. He gets emotional because all people hear is positive — jobs, etc. He likes the term “aboriginal people” — when we start breaking it into groups it is not strong. They should stand together as aboriginal people.

Gordon said he listened to webcast this afternoon on Traditional Knowledge (TK). TK is very important because everything elders was taught is from the heart. If we are going to change that, we’re really going to kill aboriginal heritage.

Industry, he said has its nice, beautiful pictures. But he questions that. Global warming is coming. Will their ice platforms withstand that? He heard today about low numbers of caribou that could be along pipe route. Things are happening. We’re concerned. But, still pipeline has a positive attitude.

“If you wanted my vote, today,” he said, “I would vote negative, because there are a lot of important issues for aboriginals people to keep their culture alive, what is left of it.”

He then spoke of Alaska, where people say once they signed, no one cared about aboriginal culture.

There is too much paper, too much technical talk, he said. But if we are allowed to talk from the heart, and make industry understand, then maybe we can make a deal. But there are a lot of issues that need to be filled in. He ended by saying there are a lot of other people who would like to speak — but cannot speak in public forums like this.

We need to knock on doors, he said, sit down and listen to people. Because in 10 or 20 years, our caribou, fish and cranberries may be all gone.

Randy Ottenbreit said in response to the comment that everything Gordon hears is good, they have trued to identify positive and negative, and how to reduce the latter. EIS is not only work to address those matters — also work done by aboriginal leaders up and down the valley. He feels as a result that they put forward a good proposal. [Translation = ‘Everything’s fine.’]

In response to Gordon’s concerns about how drilling platforms will withstand climate change, Kim Johnson of Shell said they can build them high enough off the ground for that. It is easy to remove them later. People will hardly know that the site was used because the land is not disturbed (!).

Gordon asked if company would take responsibility if a problem arose after clean-up. Could they guarantee that?

Johnson acknowledged there were issues in Aklavik where Shell sump sites eroded after abandonment. The piles became exposed. They came back and cleaned up and they would do so in the future.

Gordon asked a question about Access and Benefits Agreement. He was told to take it up with his leaders because it is confidential and proponents cannot talk about it. This is something we have heard before. The Proponents take the tack that they do not have to explain things because they are in the confidential agreements.

Dennis Allen spoke as a concerned citizen and land user. Born and raised in Inuvik. Filmmaker. Grew up when land claims were being negotiated in 60s-70s. He stressed he has no axe to grind. He had strong opinions at one time. He then read some of the materials, and learned a lot from a two-part series the Inuvialuit Communications group hired someone to produce on the pipeline. He encouraged others to educate themselves.

Like many people who have spoken, Allen said he is not against the pipeline. But where they go whaling is just past the Niglintgak anchor field. Not everyone can go out and get a white collar job. He was reading about where they are going to build the well pads at Niglintgak. The scope of them fired things up for him again. But he stepped back and told himself that things cannot stay the same. Otherwise we would still be dragging our knuckles and clubbing animals. He would rather go to KFC or Tim Horton’s. Change and progress are inevitable. So, he has to tone down his rhetoric about the pipeline.

We can’t separate the people from the impact. He is not pointing fingers. But there will be impacts. These are people’s lives. Incredible amounts of money will come in. We are just getting over our hangover from the 80s boom. He was part of that, worked in the oil patch. He remembers dredging in the Beaufort Sea. At the time he had no understanding of how big things were — and that’s noting compared to size of this project. He has heard it described as possibly biggest mega project in Western Canada. He hoped people would be more reserved this time in how they spend their money.

A lot of the people he worked with he said had low self-esteem and pissed everything away. There are now a lot harder drugs coming in. Look at what diamond industry did in Yellowknife: crack cocaine use has expanded.

He’s heard several times people coming forward saying we’ve got to start looking after our people. Leaders’ response is that that is government job. Allen ended his presentation with the same phrase I used to start this report — saying with negative social impact from pipeline he is concerned no one will be leading the parade.

Ottenbreit of Imperial said social issues are most commonly expressed concern. He repeated that they will work to keep work camps drug and alcohol free, by searching luggage, etc. They need their workers to be sharp.