Haida Gwaii, B.C., earthquake, tsunami warning add fuel to anti-pipeline argument

It didn't take long for the anti-oil pipeline and tanker activists to make an example out of Saturday night's earthquake.

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Just minutes after the 7.7  magnitude tremor hit the west coast of British Columbia, Twitter was abuzz with speculation about the effects of a future earthquake on the proposed Enbridge pipeline:

Ironically, just two weeks ago at the pipeline hearings in B.C., Enbridge officials were questioned about earthquakes.

According to the Canadian Press, the company conceded that there will always be some risk that a natural disaster along a pipeline route could cause a serious rupture.

'"That's why we get the seismic values, that's why we look at the geohazards and consider the geohazards along the pipeline,'" [Enbridge's Geo-technical engineer Drummond Cavers] said under questioning from First Nation's lawyer Jesse McCormick.

'That's exactly what we're designing for, and mitigating.'

McCormick then asked if there was zero chance an earthquake of a magnitude less than 7.5 would result in catastrophic failure of the pipeline.

'No, we've stated before, I think quite clearly, that we can never get the probability of a hazard down to zero,'Cavers said."

There's also questions about how an earthquake would affect increased oil tanker traffic.

According to Natural Resources Canada, the Pacific Coast is the most earthquake-prone region in the country.

"In the offshore region to the west of Vancouver Island," the organization's website notes, "more than 100 earthquakes of magnitude five or greater (large enough to cause damage had they been closer to land) have occurred during the past 70 years."

Ben West of the Wilderness Committee said that he hopes that the earthquake serves as a wake-up call to the industry.

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"I'm sure Enbridge and Kinder Morgan were, like many of us last night, thinking about the connection between earthquakes, tsunamis and the dangers of transporting bitumen through our coastal waters," he told the Vancouver Observer.

"This should serve as yet another reminder that these pipeline and tanker projects represent a very serious threat."

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