Pipelines are too important to ignore

The debate over pipelines is in serious need of a heavy dose of common sense. Farmers, like the First Nations people, have to be fully involved in debate.

Moving oil and gas long distances is a necessity in an area as large as North America.

Pipelines are clearly the best option. It is true they are disruptive during the construction phase and for a time afterwards.

Farmers need to be compensated for the damage to soil until it can be returned tor full fertility. Plus compensation for rights of way that need to be maintained on a permanent basis for service and maintenance.

But when you put that alongside the cost of railways and highways and the disruption off trains and trucks, pipelines come out a clear winner by a long shot.

Animals, both domestic and wild can graze freely over a pipeline. Check the ditches along any rail line or major highway and you soon see how many animals fall victim to our modern transportation systems.

Roads and railways must run through urban areas because of the other services they provide. Pipelines can cross hundreds of miles of wilderness.

First Nations people, like farmers, have a legitimate concern about the disruption of pipelines across traditional lands.

But those concerns have been exacerbated by the failure of politicians and industry to involve them in route planning as well as failure to include them in the employment available in the building and the maintenance of the infrastructure.

Reports of pipeline leaks going undetected for days and weeks could easily be avoided if the First Nations and farmers are fully involved in the maintenance.

The worst possible pipeline break could never cause a catastrophe like Lac Megantic.

First Nations people concern about the pressure put on politicians to approve the demands of industry are understandable. They have been cheated and ignored and lied to for so long. And it is still going on.

Two years to build a 25 kilometre road so a First Nation can finally get clean water after 18 years of having to boil water? What nonsense. If General Motors or IBM needed a 25 km road to service a new plant it would be built in six months.

Henry F. Heald is an Ottawa based freelance journalist specializing in agriculture and international development.

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