Despite over 9,500 public submissions to the Joint Review Panel for the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline - with a resounding 96% opposed - John Carruthers, the company president in charge of the project, remains confident it will proceed.
Carruthers told reporters outside the final round of hearings in Terrace, BC this week, "I think the chances of it going ahead are very probable."
Either this is desperate, last-ditch posturing - in which case Mr. Carruthers is misleading his shareholders - or, giving him the benefit of the doubt, he believes what he says.
Consider the implications for a moment, given the wholesale rejection of the project from every quarter.
Enbridge has been told, "NO", six ways from Sunday over the past five years.
An unprecedented, unified "No" from First Nations all along the pipeline and tanker routes - backed by others all around the province and beyond. Over 160 altogether. Their resolve has not wavered - even when Enbridge tried to engineer the splintering of this phalanx through a trumped up, discredited deal with a rogue Gitxsan treaty negotiator, the ham-fisted maneuver backfired badly. The "unbroken wall" of opposition promised by chiefs like Jackie Thomas of the Saik'uz Fisrt Nation has held all this time.
Northern municipalities - Prince Rupert, Terrace, Smithers - have passed resolutions telling Enbridge, "No."
Ecologists, biologists, statisticians, fishermen, marine safety and oil spill recovery experts, even respected economists have lined up to tell Enbridge, "No."
The province's Official Opposition and Government have both, essentially, told Enbridge, "No."
In fact, the only person who has said "Yes" to Mr. Carruthers is Stephen Harper - and even his support is wavering these days. His top BC minister, James Moore, responded to the Clark Government's closing statement against the pipeline at the JRP hearings, noting, "there are many pathways for Canadian resources to get out of the country, and we'll see if Enbridge looks at other opportunities." According to CBC, "He said his government supports B.C.'s five conditions for heavy oil pipelines...Moore says his government supports getting natural resources out of Canada, whether through Northern Gateway, or other projects, but any company must be accountable to the people living where it wants to build."
Harper is changing his tune because even he can see what everyone else but Carruthers can: this project is dead in the water.
Mr. Carruthers' confidence is based on his own subjective certainty that Northern Gateway is "a tremendously needed project for Canadians to get full value for their resources which are critically needed and that need is even more urgent than it's been."
This baseless fear-mongering was echoed by Enbridge lawyer Richard Neufeld, who also took the stand Monday to extoll his company's project. If Enbridge were denied, "Canada would be facing, we submit, an economic catastrophe of unprecedented proportions," Neufeld told the Joint Review Panel.
This laughable, self-serving rhetoric flies in the face of the independent economic analysis of former ICBC CEO Robyn Allan and many others who have warned of the economic perils to Canadians from exporting unrefined bitumen to foreign markets. Even the venerable Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) acknowledges that building a petro-economy leads to net economic losses as manufacturing and other sectors are squeezed by artificially inflated currencies.
It is by no means a given that opening up BC's coast to raw fossil fuel exports will do anything but imperil our "Super, Natural" brand and the $13.4 Billion tourism economy upon which it depends.
Mr. Carruthers is confusing what's in the economic interest of Canadians with that of himself and the foreign-owned oil producers who would use his infrastructure to export Canadian jobs and resource wealth to foreign markets. They are not remotely one and the same. When we hear "the economy", we must always ask, "whose economy?"
And what of the inordinate human, environmental and, yes, economic costs of the climate catastrophe this project would help facilitate? Even the US Government is coming to terms with the socioeconomic costs of carbon. Applying their own calculations to the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline yields a prediction of up to half a trillion dollars in carbon-driven social costs.
There is no glut of supply in North America's pipelines, no "bitumen bubble" driving down Tar Sands prices. Canada is a netimporter of oil, for Pete's sake. American buyers pay less for Canadian dilbit and syncrude because they are inferior products to light crude, thus meriting a discounted price.
That will always be the case, whether the customer is China or America. International crude prices may be higher for now, but dilbit will always be discounted - and the minimal additional profits from international markets are sure to wind up in the largely foreign pockets of shareholders, not trickling down the Canadian public, as we are to believe.
Contrary to Carruthers and Neufeld's Chicken Little prognostications, the sky will not fall on Canada's economy should Enbridge face rejection. And what does their opinion count for on this score anyway? They are the project proponent - not independent economists.
That's what makes this all so insulting - the righteous indignation, the holier-than-thou pontificating, the outrageous scare tactics, the thumbing of noses by these gentlemen from Calgary at BC's First Nations and citizens.
If Mr. Carruthers is delusional, as I suspect, then that's his problem I suppose (and that of his shareholders).
If, on the other hand, he's right and his much-maligned project does go ahead, then what does that say about this country in which we live? When 96% of the engaged citizenry and assorted experts who take the time to prepare and submit their thoughts to a two-year National Energy Board hearing speak against the project; when First Nations who hold unceded, constitutionally protected title and rights to these lands and waters remain unequivocally opposed...and it goes ahead, what does that say about Canada?
If that happens, we can all just quit referring to this country as a democracy. Full stop.
But I don't think that's what's going to happen at this stage. I think Mr. Carruthers is full of it.
What has me more concerned these days is the following scenario: Enbridge gets rejected. Instead, we see three or four "gas pipelines" built to BC's coast - sailing past regulatory hurdles while the public and media are distracted by Enbridge. The "gas pipelines" are ostensibly to feed boondoggle LNG projects in Kitmat and Prince Rupert - which never materialize because the economic fundamentals simply aren't there (more on that next column). Said "gas pipelines" get converted to dilbit pipelines, LNG terminals swapped for dilbit terminals. And, presto! It won't be called Enbridge, but - except for Mr. Carruthers - who cares? Same impact on our economy and environment.
Read this story from the Canadian Press on an internal audits of Canada's Coast Guard which reveals its oil spill recovery equipment is outdated and fails to meet the government's own standards for oil spill readiness. (June 3, 2013)
VANCOUVER – Internal government audits of the Canadian Coast Guard’s capacity to monitor and respond to a marine oil spill found a system that was outdated, disorganized and in need of an overhaul.
But many of the substantial recommendations in the reports have languished, despite pressure on Ottawa to deal with concerns over a potential increase in oil tanker traffic off the British Columbia coast.
Two 2010 audits “each found a number of significant deficiencies in the program’s preparedness capability, and questioned the capacity of the (Canadian Coast Guard) to respond to a significant marine pollution event,” said a March 2012 draft report for the federal Fisheries department.
In particular, the report, obtained by The Canadian Press using Access to Information, found that about 83 per cent of the oil spill response equipment across the country is ready to use, but most of it is outdated.
“Although operationally ready to respond, most of the assets held by the (emergency response) program average 25 or more years in service and have either become obsolete or are coming to the end of their useful life,” said the report of the Environmental Response Capacity Definition Project.
“Maintenance is increasingly difficult as technical support and availability of parts are compromised.”
Last week, the British Columbia government came out formally opposed to Enbridge’s (TSX:ENB) proposed Northern Gateway project, saying the project didn’t address its concerns, including those involving a potential marine oil spill.
In Canada, polluters are legally required to pay for clean-up, and the shipping industry funds the Canadian Marine Oil Spill Preparedness and Response Regime. The Coast Guard oversees clean-up, and maintains its own capacity for oil spill response.
But the lack of dedicated funding has meant the Coast Guard has not been able to “properly life-cycle” equipment, the authors found.
“This has eroded response capacities and has raised questions on the current condition and overall effectiveness of (Canadian Coast Guard)’s response equipment,” said the report.
The B.C. government has estimated the Northern Gateway pipeline, which would deliver oilsands products to a tanker port in Kitimat, B.C., for export to Asian markets, and Kinder Morgan’s proposed expansion of its existing TransMountain pipeline into the Port of Metro Vancouver, could increase tanker traffic by more than 1,000 annually off the Pacific coast.
The largest of the vessels, VLCC tankers, can carry up to 200,000 deadweight tonnes of oil.
Canadian regulations require shipping companies, who bear responsibility for responding to an incident, to have the capacity to clean up 10,000 tonnes of oil. Federal briefing notes claim the Canadian Coast Guard has a pollution response capacity in the Pacific region of 8,000 tonnes.
But the audit found that number is substantially less. The national capacity, in reality, is slightly less than 6,900 tonnes due to storage limitations in all regions, the report said.
The authors of the report had difficulty even finding out what the capacity was across the country, as there is no national co-ordinator or national inventory, and records collected from region to region varied from paper to obsolete electronic documents.
The report said that as an organization, the Coast Guard has not even defined an appropriate level of response capacity to meet its mandate.
Ivan Giesbrecht, spokesman for the Enbridge (TSX:ENB), said the Calgary-based company has made commitments beyond those required under Canadian law.
“Our marine spill response plan will improve existing safety and response readiness on British Columbia’s coastline. Naturally, this is something we hope can improve confidence and public support for our project,” Giesbrecht said in an email response to questions.
Those commitments will become requirements that will be tracked by regulatory agencies, he said.
“The commitments that Northern Gateway has made will not be voluntary after project approval.”
In March, Transport Minister Denis Lebel announced a tanker safety expert panel that is to make recommendations on improvements, among other measures aimed at assuaging public concerns in B.C.
The government announced it would also establish a Coast Guard incident command system.
Melanie Carkner, spokeswoman for Fisheries and Oceans, said in an email that the changes were “the first steps towards the development of a world-class Tanker Safety System for Canadian coasts that will strengthen the safety of Canadians and better protect the environment.”
But Will Horter, of the Dogwood Initiative, a vehement opponent of any increase in oil tanker traffic off the B.C. coast, said a spill is inevitable with the amount of tanker traffic that would ply the Pacific coast.
“Even a ‘world-class’ system doesn’t prevent the kind of risks that British Columbians are concerned about,” Horter said. “British Columbians would bear the burden.”
Here are three things to remember about Premier Clark and the Enbridge pipeline:
1. She did not reject the pipeline - she simply said that Enbridge had not met BC's conditions.
2. She has, simply said “we want money”, which reminds me of the old chestnut where a man invites a lady to bed offering her $25,000 dollars. With much hemming and hawing she accepts. He then offers her $25 dollars instead and she shrieks, “Do you think I’m a common whore”. He replies “we’ve already established that madam…now we’re dickering about the price”. That’s what the premier has done.
3. She hasn’t asked the main question – nor has anyone else including the media. That is, in spite of all the evidence to the contrary you can clean up a leak, assuming you can, how do you expect to get crews and heavy machinery into the Rocky Mountains, Rocky Mountain Trench, Coast Range or Great Bear Rainforest?
For all the crap we’re going to hear in the next year or so, these questions will not be dealt with, simply because they can’t be.
The Enbridge spill into the Kalamazoo River nearly 3 years ago demonstrates that even when access is easy, these spills are essentially forever, yet we will be smothered by company claims of “world class cleanup” processes, new-style pipelines and so on. This is the oldest gimmick of all – if you cannot answer the question, change the question to one you can.
We who raise these issues will be said to be against all development, etc., and even the NDP will start its slow but steady reversal of attitude.
Let me predict another couple of things for you.
Site “C” will go ahead, the price will move to $10 billion and the energy will be sold at much reduced rates to gas “frackers” so they can use publicly supplied energy to extract and send shale gas to Prince Rupert and Kitimat to be converted (more energy used again) to Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) and shipped to foreign markets (using yet more energy) to enrich large corporations at our expense.
There will be no great energy bonanza to the government from this and Santa Claus must be your faithful pen pal to believe that there will be a “Prosperity Fund” with over $100 Billion in it to make us debt-free and actually rolling in dough.
We’re in for four years of a government in a deep hole because of their terrible misgovernment, faced by an opposition that disgraced themselves and simply won’t be taken seriously no matter whom they select as leader.
The only thing we can hope for is an incensed public which is prepared to turn to massive civil disobedience.
I think most environmentalists are still in a state of shock over the Liberals' victory – or more correctly, the NDP loss.
The NDP campaign was the worst I have ever seen, and that’s saying something! I thought 2009 was bad but it wasn’t a patch on this one.
There’s no point in trawling over the ashes – suffice it to say that I publicly advised Adrian Dix, about half way through that politics in BC was a blood sport and that he was in danger of losing.
It didn’t take the Vancouver Sun long to get back into the swing of things with a four-page corporate blow job getting every point of view save those opposed to pipelines and tanker traffic. All the faces of unrestrained capitalism were there, including the great floor crosser himself, David Emerson. The environmentalist’s position was confined to a couple of quotes – I can assure you that neither Damien nor I was questioned.
The evidence from Environment Canada and the US government confirm that spills on land and at sea are certain thus the question is not “if” but when.
A great portion of quotes from industry tallied about their improved cleanup techniques, making one wonder if the prospects for spills were so slim, why bother about clean-up preparations?
There are consistently two obvious questions always avoided - first, if you can clean up spills, what happened to Enbridge and its Kalamazoo spill, now nearly 3 years past?
Perhaps more obvious and important is the question: if your spill occurs anywhere along the Enbridge Gateway project, how are you going to get men and machinery to it?
A battle has been lost, although considering Adrian Dix’s waffling on environmental matters generally, perhaps the NDP would have been no better than the Liberals.
It’s up to First Nations and the rest of us to go to work to stop the destruction of what we love so dearly and we must be ready for civil disobedience. If we’re not prepared to do that, it’s like going into a poker game saying, "remember, I’m always bluffing."
BC Premier Christy Clark's decision to oppose formally the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline means the project is all but dead.
The announcement, which came in the form of the BC government's final written submission this morning to the National Energy Board-led review panel for the project, is only mildly surprising. Enbridge has suffered setback after setback throughout the multi-year review and even the Harper government - which retains the final say over the project due to the Liberal Government's secretive handing away of provincial sovereignty on the matter - has backed away from its ardent support for the embattled pipeline builder. In recent months Harper has shifted his focus to pushing through the proposed Keystone XL pipeline from Alberta to the US Gulf Coast.
"British Columbia thoroughly reviewed all of the evidence and submissions made to the panel and asked substantive questions about the project, including its route, spill response capacity and financial structure to handle any incidents," Environment Minister Terry Lake noted.
"Our questions were not satisfactorily answered during these hearings."
That leaves one other major expansion route for the Alberta Tar Sands to foreign markets: US energy giant Kinder Morgan's proposal to triple its pipeline capacity to the port of Vancouver. This would result in a twenty-fold rise in tanker traffic through the Salish Sea compared with the early 2000s, before the company purchased the old Trans Mountain pipeline from Edmonton to North Burnaby.
"The position adopted by B.C. on the Northern Gateway Pipeline project as currently proposed is not a rejection of heavy-oil projects," the Clark Government stated in its final Enbridge submission, leaving the door open to Kinder Morgan.
Successful completion of the environmental review process. In the case of Enbridge, that would mean a recommendation by the National Energy Board Joint Review Panel that the project proceed;
World-leading marine oil spill response, prevention and recovery systems for B.C.'s coastline and ocean to manage and mitigate the risks and costs of heavy oil pipelines and shipments;
World-leading practices for land oil spill prevention, response and recovery systems to manage and mitigate the risks and costs of heavy oil pipelines;
Legal requirements regarding Aboriginal and treaty rights are addressed, and First Nations are provided with the opportunities, information and resources necessary to participate in and benefit from a heavy-oil project; and
British Columbia receives a fair share of the fiscal and economic benefits of a proposed heavy oil project that reflects the level, degree and nature of the risk borne by the province, the environment and taxpayers
The Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion, much like Enbridge, already fails in most of these areas.
The Coast Salish First Nations, through whose unceded traditional territories the pipeline and tankers would transit, have made their opposition clear over the past year.
Marine safety experts have repeatedly warned that neither the government nor Kinder Morgan are adequately prepared for a coastal oil spill. The company on retainer to provide these services, Western Canadian Marine Response Corporation, acknowledged at a Vancouver City Council meeting two years ago that it was certified to clean up a spill of 100,000 barrels, while these tankers would carry 650,000 barrels - possibly more if the company pushes to dredge Second Narrows and move up to larger Suezmax carriers.
The risks from the tanker route, while different from the proposed Enbridge project, are equally severe. These tankers would pass the economic heart of the province, its major population centres, its most important salmon estuary, important whale habitat, the vital farmland of the Fraser River Delta, the Gulf Islands, southern Vancouver Island and our political capital in Victoria. Throughout this journey, these ships would face daunting navigational challenges. Estimates for the cost of an oil spill in the Vancouver area range up to $40 Billion.
An oil spill on BC's south coast would decimate our "Super, Natural BC" brand, which is at the heart of our $13.4 Billion tourism economy.
As for the economic benefits of the Kinder Morgan expansion to British Columbians...what benefits? A few dozen long-term jobs in the expanded Burnaby tanker terminal? Pitiful royalties and tax revenues for the province?
If the Enbridge pipeline isn't up to Christy Clark's standards, then the proposed Kinder Morgan expansion shouldn't be either.
From Common Sense Canadian contributor Kevin Logan comes this multimedia examination of where Premier Christy Clark and the BC Liberal Party really stand on proposed oil pipelines and tankers in BC.
Christy Clark and the BC Liberals have made a lot of bold claims about their position on pipelines proposed for British Columbia.
However, what they have neglected to tell British Columbians is that their government has entered into binding agreements that ensure the success of pipelines from Alberta to the BC Coast.
Everyone knows there has been a lot of politics surrounding pipeline developments in British Columbia, but very few are aware of the longstanding agreements, established by the BC Liberals, that ensure the success of the proposed pipelines and have thoroughly tied the hands of all BC Stakeholders leaving them with no capacity to actually impact the processes that will ensure the success of these developments.
The Trade, Investment and Labour Mobility Agreement (TILMA) and New West Partnership Agreement (NWPA) which it developed into absolutely confirm that no level of government in British Columbia can block pipeline development. Nor can they impede trade through the province or create any obstacle, whatsoever, that prevents pipelines from Alberta from reaching BC's tidal waters. Doing so would result in fines of up to 5 million dollars per infraction.
The June 2010 "Equivalency Agreement", done in secret by the BC Liberals with the Harper Conservative Government - and against the letter of the law - forfeits BC's ability to review, assess and decide on these pipeline proposals which threaten to transform the province as we know it.
The video presents these documents, and exposes the BC Liberal election posturing on pipelines as hollow and meaningless. These concepts, backed by government documentation, have been published online and are readily available for anyone interested.
Yet Christy Clark has never publicly acknowledged their existence. More importantly, she has also positioned her party for re-election on claims that run counter to these indisputable facts.
In fact, the material contained in the above video proves that Christy Clark's claims that she can block or prevent these pipeline proposals, based on her "tough NEW stance" and "5 conditions" is without merit, not based in reality and ignores the existence of these agreements of her government's own making.
The video closes with live footage from the most recent Estimates debate for the Ministry of Energy, where the Minister of Everything, Rich Coleman, is on tape discussing his government's "non-disclosure agreements" with the world's largest oil companies.
This fact has gone unreported and exposes the bold hypocrisy of the BC Liberal campaign, which has had the audacity to broadly claim the BC NDP is "concealing" their position on these pipeline developments.
There is not one mainstream media report that covers the "non-disclosure agreements" the world's largest oil and gas companies have with the BC Liberals, even though the minister responsible has made their existence known in the public debate contained in this video.
Stories on these topics (see below) have been published on the internet for over a year, yet no one has refuted them, and Christy Clark has never publicly acknowledged their existence.
They impact all British Columbians and are crucial to our future.
Read this story from the Terrace Standard on BC Conservative Party candidate Mike Brousseau's opposition to the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline, running counter to his party's official position. Brousseau's riding encompasses much of the proposed pipeline route and the would-be tanker terminal in Kitimat. (April 24, 2013)
ENBRIDGE shouldn’t be allowed to build its Northern Gateway oil pipeline from Alberta to a planned marine export terminal at Kitimat, says Skeena BC Conservative candidate Mike Brousseau.
“Integrity for me with Gateway just doesn’t add up,” said Brousseau of the $5.5 billion project now in the final stages of a federal environmental review.
Brousseau, who was born in Michigan, still has relatives living in the Kalamazoo area where an Enbridge pipeline broke in 2010.
Company officials weren’t aware of the leak for hours, resulting in significant spillage into the Kalamazoo River.
“There’s been a cover-up,” said Brousseau of work done there to clean up the spill.
“Do you think I want that happening here? No way, Jose.”
Brousseau termed Enbridge a “globalist” company concerned only with profits and not communities or the environment.
“It doesn’t work top down. It needs to work bottom up,” said Brousseau of how decisions should be made and how companies should do business.
“From the top down, people are oppressed. People aren’t represented at a global level.”
And although Brousseau’s position is opposite to that of the BC Conservative party, which is in support of Northern Gateway, that’s fine by him.
“I can go against the party if I wish,” says Brousseau. “He supports me in doing that,” Brousseau added of party leader John Cummins.
“This is not a party like the NDP or the Liberals with a whip system,” Brousseau said of the term used in politics whereby party discipline is enforced.
“I get my advice from the people. I am the people’s candidate.”
Brousseau said his position might change, as long as people also approved, of a pipeline construction plan that included the highest level of environmental protection and monitoring.
Read this story and watch video on questionable tactics undertaken by pipeline builder Enbidge to curry favour with landowners and communities along the route of its proposed Line 9 expansion to eastern Canada. (April 21, 2013)
MONTREAL — The town of Mirabel got $10,000, and put it toward the cost of a generator for its fire department. Belleville, Ont., got $25,000 to turn a city bus into a mobile emergency command centre. And just two weeks ago, Vaudreuil-Dorion got $20,000 for new hazardous material and communications equipment for its fire department.
What do these towns have in common?
They are all on or near the route of Enbridge’s 9B oil pipeline, and just as the company is seeking approval for its controversial project to reverse and substantially increase the flow of crude oil through the pipeline, it has given these and other towns sizable donations.
Made in the name of “safe communities,” the donations are legal, proponents and critics concede.
But as the April 19 deadline approached for towns to seek permission to speak before the National Energy Board reviewing the proposal, the question was whether Enbridge expects something in return.
The news out of the Joint Review Panel looking into the Enbridge pipeline should have a profound effect on us all.
One of the conditions is a requirement that Enbridge carry close to $1 billion in insurance, plus $100 million on hand to cover losses from spills.
I find this interesting, since normally an assessment of future damages covered is accompanied by an assessment of the risk to be covered. What is the size of the risk and how big a part of that risk will be taken? This so in every kind of insurance - be it life, casualty, automobile, what have you. This means not only must there be an assessment of the risk - i.e. is there likely to be a loss - but how much is a loss going to cost? This is especially true of casualty insurance, as the Joint Review Panel is dealing with here.
The second critical point is whether or not the insurer will continue to cover Enbridge after a loss has occurred? Can they cancel, leaving Enbridge’s further damages up to us the people?
This story will be seen (Enbridge hopes) as an encouraging sign, because opponents will be shut up now that these big numbers are involved.
I am not impressed – indeed quite the opposite – for this indicates that the Joint Panel thinks that there’s a risk involved. There is in fact a certainty. Dealing with this as simply “a risk” and announcing the coverage required is asking us to accept that “risk” because the damages are prepaid. Moreover, the amount of insurance involved is nowhere near what the ultimate cost will be and ignores the question: what will the long range cost to our environment be and how do you comopute that loss?
If one uses, as an example, the Enbridge spill into the Kalamazoo River, two years later they had used up all of their insurance of $650 million. The cleanup continues and the cost is expected to be over a billion dollars and much of the damage is forever.
Enbridge will be required to demonstrate insurance coverage at $950 billion - roughly equivalent cost of the Kalamazoo spill. BUT, the Kalamazoo spill was easily accessed. There were no mountain ranges like the Rockies or the Coast Range; no Rocky Mountain Trench; no Great Bear Rainforest to contend with. Let us, for God’s sake, ask a key question: How does Enbridge have access to spills on land? How does it get labour and heavy equipment to the spill? Doesn't the Kalamazoo spill demonstrate that there can never be a total cleanup?
The BP disaster in the Gulf of Mexico has cost, so far, about $36 billion and rising.
Another critical question is who insures oil tankers, especially when many of them will be owned by companies flying a flag of convenience like Panama, the Cayman Islands and the like?
How is a coastal spill to be cleaned up and at whose cost?
What the people of British Columbia are certainly to have are spills on land and sea for which they will pay much of the cleanup out of their taxes. What we are also certain to have is enormous environmental damage forever.
Finally, the pronouncement of the Joint Review Panel should be assessing the frequency and probability of damage and laying that before the public for a decision as to whether or not these pipelines should be built in the first place.
This won’t be done and the Harper government is on record giving its approval of these pipelines no matter what the National Energy Board recommends.
Given the Kalamazoo experience, how does Enbridge control and clean up a spill when the only access is by helicopter? Every way one looks at this case shows huge costs - much paid by the public - with permanent damage to our environment.
It's been another appallingly bad week for proponents of pipeline safety and new oil infrastructure. If the industry's woeful historical record - from the Exxon Valdez to BP's Gulf of Mexico catastrophe to Enbridge's trashing of the Kalamazoo - isn't enough to turn people off of new pipelines and tanker routes, this slew of recent spills should seal the deal.
These incidents couldn't have come at a worse time for the oil and pipeline industries, as US President Barack Obama prepares to announce his final decision in the coming months on the proposed Keystone XL pipeline from the Alberta Tar Sands to Port Arthur, Texas.
Let's review the record over the last week:
•This past friday, ExxonMobil's Pegasus Pipeline coated the streets of Mayflower, Arkansas with what CNN describes as a "smelly, asphalt-like crude" (i.e. diluted bitumen from the Alberta Tar Sands - the same kind the proposed Keystone XL would carry). These photos illustrate the effects of the spill on the sleepy Little Rock suburb - see the viral video captured by a local resident below.
• Enbridge was back at it again last week, with the fourth recorded spill in two months along its Norman Wells Pipeline through the Northwest Territories. The company has leaked an estimated million litres of oil since February, 2011, from this one pipeline, prompting the National Energy Board to order an engineering assessment of the chronically malfunctioning line.
• Meanwhile, back at the Alberta Tar Sands, Suncor was dealing with (and furiously downplaying) a leak from one of its massive waste ponds into the Athabasca River. This comes on the heels of a leaked memo to Conservative Resources Minister Joe Oliver, which acknowledged routine spillage from these ponds throughout the Tar Sands.
• Over the weekend, Michigan was hit with another spill - this time up to 500 gallons of hydraulic oil spilled into the Lansing Grand River during an equipment malfunction at a local utility.
• For those who would look to rail as an alternative to pipelines for transporting oil, there was the derailment last week of a CP Rail train, spilling an estimated 30,000 gallons of its crude cargo in western Minnesota.
This latest spate of spills should give pause to President Obama as he contemplates the Keystone XL - and to Canadian citizens and lawmakers debating several new pipeline proposals of our own.
It's time to put to rest the notion that oil spills are "accidents". They are, rather, a routine function of the business of extracting, transporting, and consuming oil - a good reason to spend our energy and resources on developing sustainable alternatives, not further entrenching our dependence on fossil fuels through new oil infrastructure.