Health Risks: Tar sands, Refineries, Pipelines

The purpose of this research project is to answer the basic question: Do those who live close to refineries and/or tar sand extractions sites and/or who work in occupations related to refineries and tar sands have a greater risk of illness, e.g., cancer, as a result?

Tentative Research Agenda

1) Literature Review:

Research studies of links, if any, between; 1) occupation, 2) geographical location and types of illnesses, particularly cancers. Are there studies of particular types of cancers by occupation/industry and location/residence.

2) Data

I am filing Freedom of Information requests with the City of Burnaby on the number of complaints made by Burnaby residents over time on oil spills, evacuation orders, noise complaints, health risks, follow-up to resident’s complaints, programs, and minutes of meetings regarding by-laws to regulate the oil pipeline and refinery industry.

We need to know which government agencies, groups, NGOs etc collect information on cancer rates by residence and/or location of subject (since privacy is going to be an issue, perhaps types of cancers by treatment center or data that can help identify location, and industry or occupation of subject.

A few potential sources come to mind:

Cancer Society
Health Canada
Statistics Canada
Local Health Authorities

Fake consultation process isn’t fooling anyone: B.C. doesn’t want new Kinder Morgan pipeline


Kinder Morgan’s so-called “public information sessions” Fake consultation process isn’t fooling anyone: B.C. doesn’t want new Kinder Morgan pipeline are little more than a dog and pony show.

Billed as an open forum for dialogue regarding the Houston-based company’s proposed Trans Mountain pipeline project, sessions like the one last Saturday in North Vancouver fail to even present residents with detailed community-level maps of the pipeline route. How can you provide any meaningful information about a pipeline project without key information that relates to local neighbourhoods?

Worse yet, Kinder Morgan will likely use these sessions to try and say they have adequately consulted with communities about the project. At best, these sessions are focus groups that we are participating in for free.

Rather than supplying valuable information to the public, it seems the company is using this process to extract information from us. They are acting as if they are in the midst of a federal or provincial environmental assessment process but they are not — they haven’t even filed any detailed plans with the National Energy Board. People need to know that there will in fact be a full on consultation process once the company files with the NEB at the end of next year. If the provincial NDP ends up in office, there will also be a “made in B.C.” process.

So what can Kinder Morgan definitively say about their plans at this point? Not much. That’s why I call it a “focus group.” It seems to me these meetings are a way of using concerned citizens to help the company figure out how best to sell the project to the public when they do in fact apply.

Read more:

Kinder Morgan public information sessions

As many of us know, Kinder Morgan has now begun holding “public information sessions” in a number of BC communities along the Trans Mountain pipeline route. Not surprisingly, the recent session held in North Vancouver was severely lacking in the information department—the company is not even offering detailed community-level maps of the route through local neighbourhoods.

Instead of providing meaningful dialogue about their controversial pipeline proposal, these sessions are being used by the company as a sort of “focus group” to gauge support and opposition. It’s a way to help formulate a better strategy to sell the idea to the public when the company eventually applies to the National Energy Board (NEB) at the end of next year.

People need to understand that these sessions are not part of a government assessment process. Kinder Morgan has yet to provide details of their plan to the NEB, and when they do, there will be a federal review (and potentially a provincial one as well, depending on the outcome of next year’s election).

That said, we still need to keep the pressure on Kinder Morgan and use every opportunity we can to let this company know how strongly we feel that this project should not go ahead!! There are several “info sessions” coming up in other BC communities. JOIN IN and help share the other side to Kinder Morgan’s story, and to counter their false claims about pipeline safety, jobs and community engagement.

Here are the details about the upcoming sessions in the Lower Mainland, many dates and locations have yet to be determined:

13 November 2012 East Vancouver Info Session – Pacific National Exhibition (PNE), Hastings Room (2901 East Hastings Street) – drop in from 5pm-8pm

15 November 2012 Downtown Vancouver Info Session – Harbour Centre, Segal Hall (515 West Hastings Street) – drop in from 5pm-8pm

17 November 2012 West Point Grey Info Session – Aberthau Mansion (4397 West 2nd Ave) – drop in from 5pm-8pm

17 November 2012 Abbotsford Info Session – Sandman Hotel (32720 Simon Avenue) – drop in from 1pm-4pm

20 November 2012 Coquitlam Info Session – Centennial Secondary School, Courtyard (570 Poirier Street) – drop in from 5pm-8pm

21 November 2012 Surrey Info Session – Ellendale Elementary School (14525 110A Avenue) – drop in from 5pm-8pm

22 November 2012 Langley Info Session – Walnut Grove Secondary School (8919 Walnut Grove Drive) – drop in from 5pm-8pm

November 26 – December 02 2012 Chilliwack Info Session – Location, Date & Time TBC

November 26 – December 02 2012 Hope Info Session – Location, Date & Time TBC

November 26 – December 02 2012 Abbotsford Info Session – Location, Date & Time TBC

IT would be great if some PIPE UP folks would be interested to hang outside these events, supplementing the company’s information with maps and resources of our own, including the BLUE DROP symbol and potentially a table for ‘Disillusionment Counseling’ after people go through their sessions or a photo booth where we can take a photo of folks with a message for Kinder Morgan and help share it on Social Media. PLEASE COME OUT AND JOIN US to ask the tough questions and add your voice to the growing opposition to this project!

**Just remember, if you do attend, don’t “sign in” or fill out one of the company’s consultation forms. These could be counted by Kinder Morgan as part of the “consultation” requirement for their formal application to the government—and we don’t want to add false legitimacy to this process.**

Let’s remind Kinder Morgan that our communities and coastlines are not for sale!

For the full list of info sessions and locations please visit:

Upset over the tar sands

By Stan Hirst

“Stop the tar sands!” says my fellow Elder. Then he thumps the table. “We should make that the key objective of the Suzuki Elders.”

It’s easy to see why thinking people get upset over the tar sands, or Alberta Oil Sands as they are more safely referred to east of the Rockies. More than 600 km2 of boreal forest (roughly the same area as greater Vancouver) have already been cleared, mined or otherwise very significantly disturbed. One-fifth of Alberta’s land area is currently under lease for further such bitumen mining and extraction.

The gunk-like bitumen makes up only 10% of the excavated tar sand, so something like two tons of sand must be processed to get one barrel of oil. About 40% of the bitumen resource is beyond the reach of conventional excavation, so pressurized steam injection is needed to force the stuff to the surface. The necessary steam generation chews up 34 m3 of natural gas to produce one barrel of bitumen from in situ projects and about 20 m3 in the case of integrated projects, so daily use of purchased gas in the oil sands amounts to something like 21 million m3. Average emissions for oil sands extraction and upgrading (per barrel) are 3.2 to 4.5 times that for conventional crude oil.

Water requirements for steam and other uses range from 2 to 4.5 m3 of water per each cubic metre of synthetic crude oil extracted in a mining operation. The companies in the oil sands are licensed to withdraw 650 million m2 of water from the Athabasca River annually (equal to seven times the annual water needs of city the size of Edmonton). Oil sands operations currently recycle and reuse about ¾ of the water extracted from the Athabasca River.

An average of 1.5 barrels of a processed mix of water, sand, silt, clay, contaminants and unrecovered hydrocarbons is generated for every barrel of bitumen produced, and 200 million litres of this sludge is dumped into tailings ponds every day. The area of the ponds is currently in excess of 130 km2 (about the total area of Richmond B.C.) with a projected increase to 310 km2 by 2040. Tailings pond water is acutely toxic to aquatic organisms and mammals and contains substances such as naphthenic acids, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, phenolic compounds, ammonia, mercury and other trace metals, some of which are toxic to humans while others are known carcinogens.

Unhappy situation? The future is scarier. China badly needs oil to keep its huge economy powering forward and has now invested $4.7 billion in Syncrude. China will presumably want its share of the crude oil at the end of a pipeline in Kitimat B.C.

Are the oil sands sustainable in the long term? Yes, says the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers. The oil sands are the 2nd largest crude oil reserve in the world, and supply the U.S. with 20% of its crude oil. This proportion can only increase as Saudi Arabia and the Middle East run out of easy oil and Venezuela and the rest of the producers get ever shirtier with our southern neighbours. World surplus oil production capacity will disappear in the next five years, and the global shortfall by 2015 could reach 10 million barrels per day. Biomass is not a substitute for oil in most sectors because of low photosynthetic efficiency (Brazil, the world leader in biomass energy production, burns up just 1/3 barrel of ethanol but 4½ barrels of oil per person annually). Solar and other energy sources are a long way from replacing oil as the main driver of the transportation sector. Current mining and extraction operations affect less than ½ percent of the total oil sand area, so there is a lot more gunk out there to be dug up and processed.

Sustainable? No, say the greens. The current annual CO2 emissions from all this mining and refining are something like 40 million tonnes which is currently 5% of the Canadian total. This level of CO2 output will obviously increase if plans for oil sands expansion are implemented. To keep emissions down to levels consistent with Canada’s greenhouse gas reduction targets, very expensive and untested proposals for carbon capture and storage will need to be implemented. The tailings ponds stand accused of being leaky, to the tune of 11 million litres of contaminated water per day. Toxic and carcinogenic compounds from the tailings and emissions are contaminating surrounding water and areas and are suspected of causing cancer in local communities. Wildlife, especially waterfowl, are heavily impacted by oil sand operations and tailings disposal. By 2020 the projected water use in the oil sands will be an estimated 45 m3/s which is nearly half the Athabasca River’s low winter flow during eight of the years since 1980 and in every year since 1999. The Peace-Athabasca Delta downstream of the oil sands is already exhibiting negative effects of declining water supply from climate change and the impacts of the upstream Bennett Dam in B.C.

Naturally, none of this is acceptable. The evidence mounts daily that current oil sand operations are simply pushing the envelope too far and too close to allowable and acceptable limits in the natural and human ecosystem — too many emissions, too much danger to downstream human communities, too many ecological impacts, too great a drain on dwindling water resources. So what we should be doing is insisting, absolutely, that whatever they produce be churned out with full consideration to the ecosystem and the local communities, and with full reckoning of the costs thereof.

Let’s be honest — the oil people up in Fort McMurray are not munching tons of sand just to annoy a few of us down here. They are simply supplying a commodity which is in huge demand by society. They didn’t create the demand, they’re just good at providing what society wants, i.e. cheap fossil fuel to burn in gridlocked Escalades standing on the Santa Monica freeway.

Stop the tar sands? Not likely. The current value of the plant alone exceeds $90 billion. Billions of dollars accrue to tax revenues from the oil sands every year, and 60% go into federal coffers. The Alberta coffers currently take in almost $2 billion annually from royalties. This money is the source of many federal and provincial programs and services in infrastructure, health and education. One in every 15 Albertans works for the energy industry, Take a stroll around Calgary and check out the fine recreational facilities and art museums funded by Big Oil. You had better go tell those folks you want to shut them down, fellow Elder, because I sure ain’t.

The long-term solution to this quandary is not to storm the bastion or the tailings ponds or whatever. It’s much duller, more difficult and highly contentious (sort of Elder-ish). In other words, it’s a matter of economics and politics. Fossil fuels are simply too cheap to discourage the present profligate consumption and the associated high rate of oil production from sources such as the oil sands. Moreover, production from the oil sands is heavily subsidized by the taxpayer. The full costs of the negative consequences of production, especially the ones difficult to quantify (e.g. higher cancer rates in local people) are never costed into the production equation. So two approaches immediately present themselves: make oil energy costs totally realistic though elimination of subsidies, and level the playing field through the imposition of carbon taxes. B.C. has already demonstrated that the latter are not necessarily politically unacceptable.

The objective, fellow Elders, is not to stop the tar sands, it’s to make them redundant.

Now, the next job is to convince the other ten million Elders of this…

Kinder Morgan making careful moves

Three weeks after B.C. laid down the conditions for getting a pipeline endorsed, the president of Kinder Morgan wrote a six-page letter to Premier Christy Clark.

It gives a glimpse of how the company – which is planning to twin an existing line to metro Vancouver – is trying to differentiate itself from the Enbridge Northern Gateway effort to build a line to Kitimat.

The public argument over that proposal is reaching peak volume just as debate on Kinder Morgan’s plan is getting underway.

And the impression is building that the Kinder Morgan project – which is a year or two behind Enbridge in the approval process – is the one to take seriously.

Enbridge is now facing a wall of opposition from multiple sectors. Even the B.C. Liberals seem to be growing steadily more skeptical about the idea of pumping bitumen through mostly virgin wilderness to a new oil port on the wild west coast.

Kinder Morgan’s idea – known as the Trans Mountain Project – has its share of critics, too. But the company is pressing ahead with a plan to make a formal application in late 2013 to twin an existing line from Alberta to metro Vancouver by way of Kamloops and have it finished by 2017.

After the B.C. government set down the conditions, company president Ian Anderson wrote Clark. The letter was made public late last month in response to a freedom-of-information request by a researcher.

Anderson said it comprised the company’s “initial thoughts” on the conditions.

“A key distinction between the two pipeline proposals, irrespective of geography, is that Northern Gateway is a greenfield proposal and Trans Mountain, with its 60-year operating history, is not,” Anderson wrote.

He said it’s obvious that “heavy oil” is a concern of the government and the public.

“The existing Trans Mountain pipeline has been transporting increasing amounts of heavy oil for the past 30 years,” he said.

Anderson said it represents about a quarter of the volumes now shipped through the line. “Contrary to much of the public misinformation regarding corrosiveness and oil spill cleanup … heavy oil is not significantly different than conventional oil.

“The Trans Mountain pipeline is not corroding nor is effective oil-spill response hindered because of it.

“In my view, focusing on heavy oil mischaracterizes many progressive and excellent ideas advanced in the [B.C. government’s] report.”

B.C.’s conditions are: Successful completion of environmental review, world-leading safety standards on both the marine and terrestrial sides, respect for First Nations’ rights and a fair share of the benefits for B.C.

Anderson said he is confident Trans Mountain will pass the environmental review. He said that was “not out of a lack of respect for the process,” but because they built 160 kilometres of pipeline through Jasper National Park and Mount Robson Provincial Park four years ago, a job that required the highest standards.

He lauded the Western Canada Marine Response Corporation, an oil-spill co-op founded in the 1970s. Although the company had a disastrous spill on land in 2007, when a work crew ruptured a line in Burnaby spilling almost a quarter-million litres, Anderson said the co-ordinated response was first-rate.

Addressing aboriginal treaty rights is simply a law that must be complied with, he said. The existing line crosses 15 reserves and the traditional territories of many more. Anderson said they might not get agreements with all First Nations, but will seek solutions, and fulfil the obligation to consult and mitigate.

The last and touchiest issue – a fair share – is “outside the direct control” of the company. But Anderson said he would welcome talks on the issue and the company could play a role in helping find a solution.

So it’s building on a 60-year history, through mountains that have already been climbed, to a port that’s not nearly as exposed.

But it has another advantage at this point – the NDP opposition is withholding judgment.

With the widespread assumption the NDP will win the election next May, the party’s views are crucial. Leader Adrian Dix has completely rejected the Northern Gateway, but he’s non-committal on Trans Mountain because the application hasn’t been filed yet.

In his lengthy statement against the Enbridge proposal, Dix put most of the emphasis on the increased tanker traffic that would ensue on the north coast.

If it’s a fresh new NDP government that has to make the call on Trans Mountain, it may not be the automatic rejection some people expect.
© Copyright (c) The Victoria Times Colonist

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This page is Under Construction

Links to First Nations, Groups and Municipal Governments Opposed to Pipelines, Tank Farms, Tankers and Mining

First Nations


PIPE UP Network
The PIPE UP Network is made up of residents of Southwestern BC who have come together because of our concerns about the safety, environmental, and financial implications, of shipping tar sands along Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain Pipeline, which runs from Edmonton, AB to Vancouver, BC.

Wilderness Committee,
The Wilderness Committee, founded in 1980, is a registered non-profit society with charitable status. With over 60,000 members, donors and volunteers, we are Canada’s largest membership-based, citizen-funded wilderness protection group. Our head office is in Vancouver, with field offices in Victoria, Winnipeg and Toronto.

Municipal Governments

Prime Minister Harper did NOT ratify FIPA today

William Carroll
Big news: Prime Minister Harper did NOT ratify FIPA today as expected, which means that the fight goes on to stop this terrible deal.

This is encouraging, and we have huge momentum. But we have to keep building, because he may simply have delayed for a few days to regroup. Now that it’s been 21 days since FIPA was tabled, he can ratify it at any time without notice. But the fact that he didn’t do it today shows how rattled he and his caucus must be by the massive upwelling of grassroots opposition from every corner of Canada.

Two weeks ago most Canadians had never heard of this terrible deal, and it seemed inevitable that Harper would ratify it today.

But thanks to you, it’s been an incredible week. Along with our partners at, we’ve been working literally around the clock — holding press conferences, delivering your 70,000+ signatures to Parliament, purchasing hundreds of radio ads crowdfunded by over 3,000 of you, building call tools that thousands of you used today to call key Conservative MPs, and more. We’ve heard from dozens of incredible organizers rallying their communities on the ground against this deal from coast to coast to coast.

We’re going to be working on next steps all weekend, so stay tuned for a key update soon. But we wanted to share this encouraging news immediately, and we’ll be back in touch with you early next week with next steps to keep on fighting FIPA.

In the meantime, if you’re on facebook, you can join us at SumOfUs and Leadnow to get more frequent updates.

Thanks for all that you do,

Matthew, Emma, Jamie and Taren on behalf of and

P.S. We still need to engage as many Canadians as possible on this issue – please click here to share our latest campaign image on facebook. is an independent community that brings Canadians together to hold government accountable, deepen our democracy and take action for the common good.

Ecojustice’s legal backgrounder on the Navigable Waters Protection Act

Apologies for the cross-posting, but I wanted to share Ecojustice’s legal backgrounder on the Navigable Waters Protection Act (and what Bill C-45 means for the Act) , which we posted online late Friday.

Direct link to the file:

It can also be accessed through the Enviro Law Watch hub:


Kimberly Shearon

Communications Coordinator | Ecojustice

214-131 Water Street, Vancouver BC, V6B 4M3
T: 604.685.5618 ext. 242 M: 778.988.1530
F: 604.685.7813

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