Frank Wolf and Todd McGowan are hiking, biking, rafting and kayaking the 1,172 km route of the proposed Enbridge pipeline through Alberta and British Columbia in order to get a first hand account of the impact the project will have.
On July 10th they cycled out of Fort McMurray, the source of the oil that will be pumped through the pipeline, and in early September they plan to reach Hartley Bay, the west coast terminus of the pipeline where tankers will collect the oil and transport it to destinations abroad. A pipeline already connects Fort McMurray to Edmonton, and the proposed 1,172 km addition would connect Edmonton to Hartley Bay. An estimated 525,000 barrels of petroleum will be pumped through it per day.
The pipeline project is a contentious issue with environmental concerns pitted against economic ones. Public hearings for the $5.5-billion project began on Aug. 10 in Whitecourt, Alberta with additional hearings scheduled in Kitimat and Prince George. First Nations groups and many others oppose it, worried about the risks of pollution, especially considering one of Enbridge’s pipelines recently spilled over three million litres of oil into Michigan waterways. This year’s Gulf of Mexico catastrophe speaks clearly of the fallibility of oil infrastructure. On the other hand, according to Enbridge the project will generate around 1,150 long-term jobs and $4.3 billion in labour-related income during construction, which appeals to communities struggling with unemployment.
Frank and Todd intend to provide a unique perspective, closely following the GPS track of the proposed pipeline to get a grassroots perspective of what the terrain looks like and interviewing people en route to understand how they will be impacted by the pipeline. Their journey will be the subject of a documentary titled On the Line.
In a recent interview with a Prince George publication, Frank explains the motivation behind this film. “Often in these environmental issues, you have one side screaming at the other,” he says. “You get the spin from Enbridge and you get the spin from the big environmental organizations and when they’re on the air, you know exactly what they’re going to say,” Wolf continues. “But if you have people living there and directly affected by it, they give you a more honest opinion. And that’s how I think you’re getting more of a real view of what’s really at stake here and that’s what the film’s going to try and bring forth.”
Yesterday Frank and Todd cycled into Smithers, having covered close to 90% of their journey. They’ve cycled through the barren landscape of northern Alberta, hiked across the Rockies, and mountain biked through rugged BC terrain. Soon they’ll trek over the Coastal Mountains, raft the Kitimat River and finally kayak across Hartley Bay.
Frank is a seasoned adventurer and filmmaker. His previous film Borealis, which documented a 3,100 km canoe trip through Canada’s Borealis forest, aired on CBC and won numerous film festival awards. Todd is a high school teacher and environmental educator. They both live in North Vancouver.