Newsletter – October 2012
The proposed Enbridge pipeline is now at the centre of a very heated and passionate debate throughout British Columbia, Alberta and the rest of Canada. The proponents, Enbridge Canada Ltd, insist that the pipeline will be built safely using their experience in this field and the latest technology available. Unfortunately their track record of pipeline spills in the past offers no reassurance at all. Not only have they had major spills but the way in which they dealt with them was very unprofessional. In a government agency report following a major pipeline spill in the U.S. their response was likened to that of The Keystone Cops.
Premier Christy Clark as leader of our provincial Liberal government replied to the proposal for this project with list of 5 items that must be addressed before they would consent to the pipeline being constructed across British Columbia. The first 4 relating to construction standards, First Nations and environmental issues were what I would hope was a given. Unfortunately the implications of the 5th item are outrageous. The Premier state that 8.5% of royalties was not enough for the risks that BC would be exposed to from the pipeline and tanker traffic involved in getting the oil to overseas markets. So what percent does she think would be sufficient to expose the people, the environment of northern BC, the entire BC coast and Vancouver Island to such potential disasters? 15%, 20%? Given the track record of Enbridge no amount of money should be traded in return for a system that could potentially endanger the ecosystems that make Vancouver Island and the coasts of British Columbia what they are.
The following article was submitted to Seniors 101 by Ben West, Communications Coordinator and Healthy Communities Campaigner, Wilderness Committee.
Will Canada’s Pacific Coast Become the Tar Sands Shipping Port?
By Ben West
Communications Coordinator and Healthy Communities Campaigner
Our Canadian Pacific coast is a beautiful and diverse ecosystem teeming with life. From our iconic schools of spawning sockeye salmon to the majestic killer whales, the coastline of BC is a treasure that belongs to all of us. This special place could be forever scarred with just one mistake that could lead to an oil spill.
Kinder Morgan’s New Trans Mountain Pipeline Proposal
For decades, the Trans Mountain pipeline from Alberta to the southern BC coast has provided most of the oil we use in the province. But in 2005, Texas-based company Kinder Morgan bought the pipeline with the goal of transforming the Vancouver harbour into a major tar sands shipping port.
Very quietly in 2007, around the same time the pipeline was accidentally ruptured and leaked into the Burrard Inlet, a risk assessment panel made up of industry insiders began the process of allowing bigger oil tankers in our waters. In 2008, the TMX-1 project increased the Trans Mountain pipeline’s capacity by 50,000 barrels a day to increase exports. Despite the fact that our Pacific coast is now increasingly threatened by a major oil spill, there was no public process or debate in the House of Commons or anywhere else.
As we were all still reeling from the BP oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, little did we know that every week one or two tankers were passing through the Burrard Inlet carrying more than three times as much crude oil than was spilled by the Exxon Valdez. As if that weren’t bad enough, now Kinder Morgan wants to increase the capacity of the pipeline up to 750,000 barrels a day—which means up to 300 or more giant oil tankers moving through our inlet every year.
Make no mistake, this oil is not for our use in Canada. It’s intended for export to markets like China and the United States. That means billions of dollars in the pockets of Big Oil executives, while we take all the risks.
The Proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline
In addition to Kinder Morgan’s pipeline plans, the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline poses a massive new threat to pristine areas across central and northern BC, including the Great Bear Rainforest. The Enbridge pipeline would bring over 500,000 barrels per day of crude oil from the tar sands in Alberta to super tankers in Kitimat, BC.
First Nations, environmentalists and citizens from all over the province have come together in opposition to this controversial project. As regulatory hearings continue, Enbridge executives are facing increasing push back from critics and even the provincial government because of concerns over pipeline and tanker safety.
The company’s public image took a beating after detailed reports came out regarding a 2010 rupture on another Enbridge pipeline in Kalamazoo, Michigan, which spilled about 20,000 barrels of tar sands diluted bitumen (dil-bit) into a tributary of the Kalamazoo River. The horrors recounted by local residents after that spill awakened Canadians to the new and frightening risks associated with transporting dil-bit from the tar sands. It’s a much different product than conventional crude oil—the heavy, chemical-laden substance creates toxic fumes when released into the environment, and it’s much more difficult and expensive to clean up than other types of oil.
The threat of a tar sands oil spill on BC’s coast, or near any of our vital salmon-bearing rivers, was enough to bring thousands of British Columbians together in protest against these two pipeline projects during the recent province-wide “Defend Our Coast” demonstrations. And this growing wave of opposition to both Kinder Morgan and Enbridge will only get stronger in the months to come.
Canada’s good name is being spoiled by expanding the export of dirty tar sands oil, while we all struggle to face the challenges of global warming. The world needs us to transition away from fossil fuels, yet these oil exports are part of a broader strategy to ramp up oil extraction from the tar sands. Instead of playing a leadership role by doing something to halt runaway climate change, the Canadian government is giving big oil companies the green light to put their foot on the accelerator. Now is the time for Canada to live up to its responsibility and to be a good global citizen. We know that our country must do better.
Together we can turn this ship around and get on course. Protecting the coast means not only keeping our shorelines safe from an oil spill, but maintaining a global climate that’s safe for everyone.
For more information on the Wilderness Committee’s pipeline and tanker campaigns, visit wildernesscommittee.org/tankers
To contact Ben West, call the Wilderness Committee office at 604-683-8220 or email him at email@example.com