UBCM opposes oil tanker traffic growth in near-split vote

B.C. civic leaders voted by a razor-thin margin Thursday to oppose oil pipeline projects that would expand tanker traffic in coastal waters.

The resolution passed in a nearly split electronic vote at the Union of B.C. Municipalities convention with 51.3 per cent of delegates in favour and 48.7 per cent opposed.

“We rely solely and wholely upon the oceans for its many resources,” said Skeena-Queen Charlotte regional district director Des Nobles, one of several delegates who said the risks of B.C. carrying more oil to the Pacific far outweigh the benefits.

Others cited the higher cost and challenge of cleaning up a spill of heavy bitumen crude oil and Canada’s insufficient spill-response capability.

“Communities in the interior of B.C. and on the coast can survive and thrive without this pipeline,” said Victoria Coun. Ben Isitt. “I’m not convinced smaller communities and even large ones can thrive in the face of a catastrophic oil spill.”

Opponents of the resolution cited the damaging signal it would send of B.C.’s openness to business before environmental reviews are complete.

Enbridge is in a joint review process on its proposed Northern Gateway bitumen pipeline to Kitimat, while Kinder Morgan is in an earlier stage of its plans to expand its existing Trans Mountain oil pipeline from northern Alberta to Burnaby.

“The oil in Canada is going to come out of the ground and it’s going to find its way to market,” said Prince George Mayor Shari Green, who opposed the resolution.

She said Alberta oil sands crude might flow to tidewater through Alaska or Washington State instead of B.C.

Kinder Morgan already has a branch of its Trans Mountain oil pipeline that also reaches the coast in Washington State at Cherry Point, where some of the flow is refined.

“Tsunami debris is already arriving on our shorelines,” Green said. “So would oil from our neighbours should there be an accident.”

The resolution advanced by Saanich council requires UBCM to “oppose projects that would lead to the expansion of oil tanker traffic through B.C.’s coastal waters” and urges provincial government leaders to fight it by any legislative and administrative means available.

Northern Gateway pipeline economics

Robyn Allan
I grew up at Jericho Beach. My brother and I played war games with our friends based on a TV show called The Rat Patrol. We’d sneak along the beach, under the army base wharf, past imaginary enemy lines and make our way to Spanish Banks and up into a field we called the Plains of Abraham.

I never imagined then that I would be fighting now to stop Supernatural British Columbia from becoming a supertanker terminal for Alberta. It’s not just the danger of a spill and what it will do to the beaches that I want to talk about today. It’s the broader issue of Canada’s energy strategy putting all our futures at risk.

Canada has an energy strategy? Yes we do. It’s just not designed to serve Canadians.

The strategy is decided in the boardrooms of large corporations and national oil companies owned by foreign governments. It’s delivered to the federal government behind closed-door meetings with lobbyists and over dessert at state dinners in other countries. Companies like Suncor, Nexen, MEG Energy, Cenovus and Total are all investors in the Northern Gateway approval process. We also have national oil companies owned by the Communist Party of China like Sinopec, PetroChina, and the Chinese National Offshore Oil Company. These companies are all directly or indirectly involved in this project.

These players have decided they need pipelines to the westcoast. They want to ship crude oil, primarily unprocessed oil sands called bitumen, to Asian markets. Both Sinopec and PetroChina have a fleet of oil tankers. They own almost all the refineries in China. That’s where they plan to upgrade and refine the crude oil they produce here into gasoline, diesel, jet fuel and other petroleum products necessary to power Asia’s economic growth. It’s upgrading and refining that creates jobs. It’s upgrading and refining that generates value added – not shipping bitumen down a pipeline.

We’ve been led to believe Northern Gateway means construction jobs. Enbridge – in a new ad campaign developed for British Columbians – pitches the construction jobs as a big plus. Enbridge claims “over 3,000 construction jobs at the peak of construction.” Sounds, you know, okay. That is until you run it by the truth metre.

That number comes from Volume 6C of their application, pages 4-8. The number is 3,029 person years of employment for three months in the third quarter of the third year of a five-year construction project. Person-years of employment are not jobs. If you work for a company for three years as a manager, that’s one job and three person-years of employment. Enbridge would call it three jobs. The construction jobs, when we run them through the truth meter, are just a tad over a 1,000, not 3,000.

That doesn’t mean these jobs are for British Columbians – they may go to anyone, even offshore temporary workers.
Enbridge CEO Pat Daniel has told us PetroChina would “love” to build the pipeline. Stephen Harper has made major changes to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program in Budget Bill C-38. These changes allow companies to import workers within 10 days, and pay them 15 percent less than the going domestic rate. These changes will certainly help PetroChina tender a low bid since they have a huge, low-paid labour pool ready to draw on.

There are virtually no long-term jobs from Northern Gateway. Enbridge says 78 jobs in BC and 26 in Alberta. A total of 104 permanent jobs.
But we do give up a lot of permanent jobs by not upgrading bitumen in Alberta. We ship those jobs down the pipeline along with the crude oil. For the bitumen that can be shipped along Northern Gateway, it’s estimated 4,800 permanent upgrading and refining jobs are lost. Compare 4,800 permanent jobs lost to Enbridge’s 104 permanent jobs gained.

We need to know that when bitumen is exported, so are jobs and value-added wealth. None of the lost jobs have been acknowledged by Enbridge in its ads or included in any of its analysis. If the Canadian government was as concerned about jobs in Canada as it pretends to be, bitumen would be upgraded in Alberta.

So what’s stopping us? The multinational companies and the Chinese government don’t want it that way. Upgrading and refining in Alberta was the strategy as recently as 2008. The oil industry had 10 new upgraders planned and even some new refineries, but then the financial crisis hit. Since then, oil production plans have recovered, while plans for new upgraders and refineries in Canada have not.

Back in 2008, when Prime Minister Harper was running for re-election, he promised bitumen would not be shipped to Asia. His government continued to publicly extol the virtues of processing oil in Canada right up until Enbridge filed its application for Northern Gateway in May 2010. So when industry proponents say it’s not economic to upgrade and refine in Canada, you can say, “Hey wait a second, as recently as 2008 that was the plan; it was economic and it was endorsed by Harper’s government.”

Once Northern Gateway is built, when Enbridge decides it wants to expand capacity, increase tanker traffic and expose the land and sea to exponential spill risk, no one will be held accountable to address the environmental threat. If the actual environmental threat of Northern Gateway is going to be assessed, it has to be done as part of the initial application.

This issue becomes important when Kinder Morgan submits its application to the National Energy Board. You need to ensure the full design capacity of the new pipeline and marine expansion is assessed, not the minimum, as has happened with Northern Gateway.
Kinder Morgan has presented its new project as a 450,000 barrel per day pipeline. With design features similar to Northern Gateway’s, it could move 850,000 barrels a day and that means somewhere around 475 oil tankers a year dropping anchor off English Bay.

There’s one final area of misinformation I want to discuss today. That’s Enbridge’s operating risk and safety record. Enbridge tells us in its ad campaign that the company has “World-class safety standards… carefully planned and built to respect the terrain and wildlife. The pipeline will be monitored 24/7.” But when you run this information through the truth metre, well…

From 1998 to 2010, Enbridge had 770 reportable oil spills, a number of them considered large by National Energy Board standards. When Enbridge submitted its risk analysis to the National Energy Board, it only included spill statistics from 2005 to 2009. In the insurance industry, we call this kind of selective choice of data “cherry picking.”

On July 25, 2010, a little over a month after filing its application for Northern Gateway, Enbridge suffered the most significant spill in the company’s history. Enbridge’s Line 6B ruptured in Marshall, Michigan, releasing more than 20,000 barrels of dilbit. Toxic condensate evaporated into the air impacting the local population. Bitumen made its way into the Kalamazoo River.

Enbridge’s corporate standard for identifying a spill is 10 minutes with an additional three minutes for pipeline shutdown. It took more than 17 hours for the Kalamazoo spill to be detected and the pipeline shut down. This pipeline was monitored by Enbridge “24/7.” Enbridge CEO Pat Daniel testified before the US House of Representatives in September 2010. He said, “By the end of September, we will have completed the bulk of the clean up.”

Twenty-three months later, with clean-up costs reaching $765 million, only three of the 39 miles of the Kalamazoo River have been opened to the public. Restoration of the affected waterway and surrounding lands has not started. The restoration stage of the Kalamazoo River will certainly take years and possibly decades. A few weeks ago [early June], the US National Transportation Safety Board released 170 documents, 5,000 pages and 58 pictures of the spill. These documents provide an arms-length, independent look at Enbridge’s world-class safety standards. They explain operating safety took a back seat to corporate growth.

All it will take to ruin the Kitimat watershed system is a spill of – not 20,000 barrels of dilbit into the Kitimat River, but if the spill takes place upstream – somewhere in the neighbourhood of 600 to 650 barrels should do it.

There are more than 700 fresh waterways that Northern Gateway will traverse. The topographical and other geophysical challenges of Northern BC are significantly greater than the relatively flat land traversed by Line 6B in Michigan.

The Kalamazoo spill wasn’t discovered by Enbridge in its state of the art control room, even after 17 hours of pressure problems, repeated alarms in the control room and three shift changes. No one saw the problem as a spill. Someone in Marshall who saw the oil called the control room. But here is something truly shocking. Enbridge doesn’t just downplay Kalamazoo; the company behaves as if the spill never happened.

During the past two years, Enbridge has not updated any of the risk analyses filed with the National Energy Board to include the Kalamazoo spill. We need to ask – who is looking after the Canadian public interest? Mr. Harper is not. Mr. Harper is not behaving as the Prime Minister of Canada. Mr. Harper is behaving as a marketing manager for big oil.

We need to ask who is looking after BC’s public interest? Premier Clark is not. As Premier she has the constitutional power to ensure Northern Gateway undergoes a provincial environmental assessment that includes the environmental threat of the designed capacity of the project—including the tanker traffic it triggers.

She has the power to ensure BC’s public interest is protected, but stands back and allows it to be trampled by the Harper government. We need to be clear. Premier Clark has been asked to lie down and play dead on Northern Gateway. By agreeing to do so she has given Northern Gateway the go ahead.

Not exercising the right to a provincial environmental assessment means BC agrees to accept the National Energy Board decision. Prime Minister Harper has told us Northern Gateway will go ahead. The only way to stop this pipeline and the tanker traffic that comes with it is for BC to exercise our right to review the project and decide whether or not we want it to go ahead.

Who is looking after the pubic interest of this riding? Your MLA Christy Clark is not. As Premier, she has the power to ensure a provincial environmental assessment of the Kinder Morgan project. Yet she has not said the Kinder Morgan pipeline proposal will undergo a provincial review. As a result, Premier Clark has agreed to – what has become – a National Energy Board rubber stamp with a big yes on it.

By doing nothing, Christy Clark has made a decision for you.

She has decided the oil export strategy designed in the boardrooms of big oil take precedence over your vision of what British Columbia, as a province, and Vancouver, as a coastal city, should be.

Environmental assessment is our right. While you still have the power to keep BC’s economy and environment out of harms way, take action. Tell Prime Minister Harper you’ve had enough of his support of large oil companies who put at risk our economy and our environment.

Tell Premier Clark to stop playing dead and stand up and protect the rights of all British Columbians. Thank-you.
Robyn Allan is an economist and the former president and CEO of ICBC (Insurance Corporation of British Columbia) www.robynallan.com. On June 16, she delivered a talk on the Northern Gateway Pipeline at a townhall meeting in Vancouver hosted by Joyce Murray, Liberal MP for Vancouver Quadra, www.joycemurray.liberal.ca The text here has been adapted from her talk. Read her entire address at www.commonground.ca

This article appeared in the JULY 2012 print edition © Common Ground magazine.
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Lawyers for First Nation question benefits of proposed Northern Gateway pipeline


EDMONTON – The benefits to the oil industry of Enbridge Inc.’s proposed Northern Gateway pipeline may be exaggerated and its costs to the economy and environment underestimated, hearings into the project heard Tuesday.

The $6-billion pipeline has been touted as a way to link burgeoning production from Alberta’s oilsands to growing markets in Asia, which would allow Canadian producers to improve profits by reaping higher prices for crude overseas.

But a lawyer for the Haisla First Nation, which claims much of the land the pipeline would travel though, said projections of nearly $1.5 billion a year in increased revenue by 2018 are inflated.

Hana Boye said the estimate Enbridge (TSX:ENB) is presenting at the National Energy Board hearings was developed with figures from the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers which suggest oil supply in Western Canada will grow by 6.5 per cent a year between 2011 and 2020.

That’s different than what Enbridge is telling its own investors and shareholders, said Boye. The company’s own estimate is 4.4 per cent growth — a difference of 500,000 barrels a day by 2020 that leads to a corresponding drop in revenues earned by producers.

“Have you given a different supply forecast to your shareholders than that provided to the panel?” Boye asked Enbridge’s Gateway manager John Carruthers on Tuesday.

Carruthers acknowledged that different figures have been used at different times. Estimates can vary depending on assumptions of what the mix of varying crudes would be, he said.

“There would be times when we would see differences.”

But the variances aren’t big enough to change the project’s economics, Carruthers said.

“The minor changes over time don’t change the project need.”

Boye added that the project could discourage the upgrading of oilsands bitumen in Alberta and that its cost to the environment hasn’t been fully evaluated.

She pressed Enbridge over the use of diluent — lightweight solvents mixed with bitumen or other heavy crudes to make them flow through a pipe. Although the mix varies, roughly one-third of what would flow through the Gateway line would be diluent. The Gateway project includes a second pipeline that would import diluent from the B.C. coast back to Alberta.

Boye suggested the cost of that diluent has not been factored into calculations of producer benefit.

Ignoring the cost of diluent exaggerates the case for shipping raw bitumen outside Alberta for upgrading or refining, said Robyn Allan, an analyst for the Alberta Federation of Labour, who is advising the Haisla.

“There is no economic analysis … that’s been supplied to the hearings (of the impact) to the Canadian economy when we import condensate instead of upgrading in Alberta,” she said outside the hearing.

“Importing condensate instead of upgrading (bitumen) is hollowing out the sector.”

Boye also questioned environmental economist Mark Anielski about his dollar-value calculation of the project’s environmental impact. She pointed out that his analysis only included the 50-metre pipeline right of way and ignored possible effects outside that corridor.

Anielski responded those effects could exist, but there’s no credible method of putting a monetary value on them.

“This kind of information is not available,” he said. “To speculate would be unprofessional of me.”

Anielski also acknowledged his report didn’t put a value on a wide array of ecological effects from forests that would be disturbed by the pipeline — everything from erosion control to genetic diversity to pollination.

Enbridge has promised to plant a tree for every one cut down for the pipeline right-of-way, he said. The company is also working with the Nature Conservancy to protect land that would offset areas disturbed by the project.

The hearings are expected to continue in Edmonton throughout the week.

© The Canadian Press, 2012

Opposition to Trans Mountain pipeline nearing Northern Gateway levels


Once a little-known factor in plans to carry oil to Canada’s West Coast, expansion of the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline now faces a level of public opposition almost as high as Enbridge Inc.’s controversial Northern Gateway project.

A new poll finds that 60.3 per cent of British Columbians surveyed are against Gateway, while 49.9 per cent oppose the twinning of the Trans Mountain system, a half-century-old pipe that already carries substantial volumes of Alberta oil to Burnaby, B.C.

Video: Former environment minister slams Enbridge pipeline plan

Those surveyed were asked to name which issue they saw as most important in B.C. and, unprompted, pipelines got the second-highest number of votes – behind the economy but above health care, the environment, unemployment and education.

The poll was commissioned by the Living Oceans Society, an environmental group that has sought to keep oil tankers off the B.C. coast. Nonetheless it provides an insight into the deepening public opposition facing the oil patch as it seeks to access new, and lucrative, Pacific markets for its product.

The opposition to Trans Mountain is especially striking, since Kinder Morgan is seeking to expand an existing pipeline and terminal used to load oil tankers. In other words, oil already moves to the B.C. Lower Mainland through Trans Mountain in substantial volumes. The Enbridge project, on the other hand, promises to bring oil to the northern B.C. coast where oil movements today are very limited.

Kinder Morgan also has yet to formally apply for the Trans Mountain expansion, and won’t even publish a map of its proposed route until late next year, when it makes that application. Enbridge is already in the midst of a prolonged and hotly-debated federal review that has brought forth thousands of public comments.

Yet a telephone survey of those along the Kinder Morgan route – the survey also included Vancouver, which lies beyond the pipeline but next to waters where tankers would sail – found substantial opposition to the expansion project.

“Those that think Kinder Morgan is a much different animal, in terms of the average person, than Enbridge are mistaken,” said Bob Penner, CEO of Stratcom, the left-leaning communication strategy and polling firm that conducted the survey. “People are seeing them both very similarly. They’re not buying the positive arguments for them and they’re not buying that there’s a big difference between Kinder Morgan and Enbridge.”

The poll of those along the route tapped 768 people. A separate online poll of British Columbians obtained 1,012 responses. While Stratcom said it sought to present neutral questions, both polls employed questionable language in some instances, by suggesting Trans Mountain transports only bitumen, or heavy oil sands crude, rather than the broader variety of oil and refined products that the pipe actually carries.

The B.C.-wide poll found support for both projects at low levels, with 19.9 per cent of people behind Gateway, and 21.9 per cent behind Kinder Morgan. In both cases, the number of British Columbians that have maintained an open mind is low: 15.6 per cent declared themselves neutral on Trans Mountain, and 10.2 per cent neither supported nor opposed Gateway.

The low levels of support come as Trans Mountain mounts an increasingly widespread campaign to win public favour. The company now has a half-dozen people on its community engagement team, some strategically hired from communities along the pipeline route.

In October, it will launch a series of public information sessions along the pipeline route, and is also developing an online platform where “there will be forums and discussions and opportunities to provide feedback to our website,” said Lizette Parsons Bell, the expansion project’s lead for stakeholder engagement and communications.

“We hope and trust that British Columbians, and all Canadians, will take the time to learn the facts about the project in order to make an informed opinion and engage us with a real dialogue based on facts,” she said.

However, she declined comment on whether the company would be willing to amend its route – a route it has resisted making public – based on public input, saying such questions would need to be posed to the expansion project’s manager. The precise route of a pipeline is often amongst the most contentious elements its proponent faces.

Resistance to the expansion is not uniform. There is greater support than opposition amongst those who vote Liberal and Conservative – although Mr. Penner points out that with a quarter of Conservatives opposed, it’s enough to put in jeopardy some Conservative seats in the province. Among those who supported the expansion, its benefits to the economy ranked as the top reason; other factors included its contribution to jobs and the fact a pipeline already exists along that route.

Still, a demand from Premier Christy Clark that B.C. take a greater share of revenue from pipelines like revenue appears to be doing little. Of those polled, 29.7 per cent said more money from Gateway would make them more likely to support the project, while 25.2 per cent say they would grow less likely to support it.

“With these polls as a whole, it’s clear that for every single party, [pipelines] are a political vulnerability,” said Tzeporah Berman, one of B.C.’s best-known environmentalists, who now consults for numerous organizations.

Pipeline leak detection systems miss 19 out of 20 spills


An investigation of pipeline accident reports from the last ten years has revealed that the much touted leak detection systems employed by pipeline companies only catch one out of twenty spills. The InsideClimate New article by Lisa Song illustrates an alarming disconnect between industry rhetoric and reality when it comes to detecting leaks on pipelines. Not only do pipeline leak detection systems miss nineteen out of twenty spills, they miss four out of five spills larger than 42,000 gallons. Understanding the limits of current leak detection technology has never been more important. As companies like Enbridge and TransCanada propose pipelines moving large volumes of tar sands across sparely populated areas, through rivers and aquifers, it’s critical that the public consider what’s at stake with open eyes. Particularly after learning from Enbridge’s Kalamazoo tar sands pipeline spill how much more damaging tar sands can be.

What does that mean for tar sands pipelines like Keystone XL and Northern Gateway?

TransCanada has told regulators that its leak detection system has a threshold of between 1.5% and 2%. Given that Keystone XL has a maximum capacity of 830,000 barrels of tar sands per day, TransCanada is saying that Keystone XL’s leak detection system can only reliably identify leaks if they’re spilling more than 500,000 to 700,000 gallons of tar sands a day. When put in that context, the reason folks don’t want Keystone XL built through their rivers and groundwater become clear.

Of course, TransCanada has told federal regulators that “computer based, non real-time, accumulated gain/loss volume trending would assist in identifying seepage releases below the 1.5 to 2 percent” threshold. In plain English, that means that given enough time, if TransCanada put a certain amount of tar sands in one end of Keystone XL, and gets less oil out of another, eventually they’ll determine they have a leak. But when?

Few would take heart upon learning the answer to that question. One of the “57 special conditions” that Keystone XL proponents claim will make the pipeline safer lays out the requirements its “non real time” leak detection system. Condition 31 says that Keystone XL’s leak detection system must be prepared using guidance provided in the Canadian Standards Association (CSA). And what does the CSA say?

To comply with this “special condition,” TransCanada’s non-real time leak detection system must be able to detect spills of 4.9 million gallons within a week (or 2% of its capacity). Leaks larger than 350,000 gallons a day, or 1% of its capacity, must be identified within a month – allowing a leak to generate a spill of over 10 million gallons over the course of a month before discovery. And there is no guidance for leaks less than one percent – on Keystone XL, a leak less than 350,000 gallons a day. When looking into it at way, the condition doesn’t seem that special.

These issues are also at play with Enbridge’s Northern Gateway project, a pipeline to move tar sands across the mountains and rivers of British Columbia. As we noted in our report, that 525,000 bpd tar sands pipeline could also leak millions of gallons of tar sands in highly remote regions without its leak detection system identifying a problem.

Enbridge’s Kalamazoo tar sands spill presents another case undercutting industry’s claims about pipeline safety and leak detection. As the InsideClimate piece notes, “Just 10 days before the accident, Enbridge Inc., which operates the Michigan pipeline, told federal regulators it could remotely detect and shut down a rupture in eight minutes. But when the line burst open, it took Enbridge 17 hours to confirm the spill.”

What is more surprising is that one month after failures in its leak detection system allowed it’s line 6B pipeline to spill over a million gallons of tar sands into the Kalamazoo River, Enbridge proposed to employ a new leak detection system only capable of detecting leaks greater than 15% of Line 6B’s capacity. Such a leak detection system could only identify spills greater than 1.2 million gallons a day.

While Enbridge is now well known for its “Keystone Kop” performance during devastating Kalamazoo tar sands spill in Michigan, a smaller spill on another Enbridge pipeline demonstrates an entirely different category of risk. In June of 2011, a landowner discovered a 63,000 gallon spill from a leak the size of a pin-hole. No one is clear how long the leak had been ongoing, but one thing is clear – if a landowner had not happened upon the spill, in all probability the pipeline would still be leaking.

Operators can feel pressured to “tell people things they shouldn’t tell them because it’s not true” Richard Kuprewicz, President of Accufacts, Sept. 19, 2012

This is quite different from the picture painted by pipeline company representatives. In one public panel, TransCanada representatives simply denied that spills smaller than 2% could not be reliably detected by Keystone XL’s real time leak detection system. Simply stated, it’s hard to have an honest public discussion about the risks of projects like Keystone XL when the company sponsoring the project isn’t honest to the public about those risks.

Photo of Kalamazoo River cleanup, courtesy of Mic Stolz

How oil companies plan to kill you (yes, you)

By Nadine Moedt (The Cascade) – Email

Print Edition: September 12, 2012

How will two oil companies (Kinder Morgan and Enbridge) try to kill thee? Let me count the ways. Having spoken to two representatives from PIPE UP, Sheila Muxlow and Michael Hale, I am thoroughly scared shitless and wish to list the reasons why continuing to allow tar sands oil through BC is a terrible and downright irresponsible idea.

First off, the product that these companies are shifting to—tar sands diluted bitumen rather than conventional oil—puts everyone at risk. Because tar sands bitumen is in its natural state is solid, it must be diluted by a variety of toxic chemicals to be moved through the pipeline. In order to be transported it must be submitted to pressure and heat, which increases the risk of spillage. The chemicals used include benzene, a chemical that has been linked to blood cancer. If there is a spill, these chemicals would evaporate into the air for us to breathe in.

To make things worse, tar sands diluted bitumen is nearly impossible to clean up in the event of a spill. That’s because tar sands bitumen is solid, so once it cools in the event of a spill, naturally it sinks. Sheila Muxlow, a spokesperson for PIPE UP, points to the Kalamazoo Michigan spill in 2010 as an example of what might be in store for us. After two years of attempting to clean up that spill using conventional methods, such as skimming oil off the water, they still have not been able to rid the water of this poisonous substance. No amount of money thrown at this issue will clean up an oil spill if we simply do not have the method to do so.

Many people are not aware that we are already allowing tar sands oil through BC. Considering all the attention given to Enbridge’s proposed Northern Gateway pipeline, I was shocked to learn that Kinder Morgan’s Trans mountain pipeline runs right through the Fraser Valley and is now carrying tar sands diluted bitumen. What makes things worse is that this is a pipeline built in the early ‘50s for the transport of conventional oil and natural gas; it was not built to accommodate the heat and pressure tar sands diluted bitumen requires. Now, Kinder Morgan is proposing an expansion: another pipeline running parallel to the first, right through our backyard.

And if this doesn’t sound bad enough, both Kinder Morgan and Enbridge are setting up this pipeline solely for export. At the moment we have something like 71 to 80 tankers a year in the Burrard Inlet. If these proposals go through, god forbid, this number would go up to 365 tankers a year. The tankers would not be the relatively small ones we have now, but large crude carriers, ranging up to 400 meters in length. Muxlow mentioned there has been talk about the need to “dredge the inlet” in order to make sure these beasts can make it through the inlet. This dredging would have a horrible ecological impact, stirring up any pollution resting at the bottom from the tankers we already have coming through and disturbing any present marine life.

So what are the benefits? Surely by prostituting our environment for the sake of Ottawa and these big oil companies we get some compensation. Right? Michael Hale has done the research and our gains, he says, are a “pittance.” Here are the facts he has summarized, taken directly from the report on the economic benefits of Enbridge’s Northern Gateway Pipeline by Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA). To start, over $10 billion would be spent (Enbridge has estimated a $5.5 billion dollar project and Kinder Morgan, $4.5 billion). There would be “spin off,” i.e., people get work. Yet economic benefits would result for any new project and the fact is that building pipelines is “capital intensive” and results in “relatively less employment” than if that money was spent on other projects. It makes sense. Manufacturing the actual pipes can be done in factories, and the digging/laying down/raping of the environment would not result in full time employment for many workers. The cost of carbon emissions, the cost of potential spills, and other environmental risks is glossed over by Enbridge. CCPA states that “while private gains accrue to the oil and gas industry, huge costs are borne by others.” Others being you, your children and your children’s … But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. We probably won’t make it that far if this pipeline goes through.

Here are some other economical facts Hale lists. For local residents: the price of gas would go up, drinking water from the aquifer would be at risk, and local manufacturing would be negatively impacted as the export of raw material contributes to inflation.

We need to explore our options before we allow these oil companies to put all of us at risk. At this point, it is absolutely critical to be thinking about building infrastructure that promotes a more green way of life. We need to focus on alternative energy sources. To build a pipeline that would speed up extraction of the tar sands oil and reinforce our dependency establish on fossil fuels would be completely irresponsible and—let’s be honest—just plain stupid.


Community speaks out against existing pipeline

By Nadine Moedt (The Cascade) – Email

Print Edition: September 12, 2012

While most environmentally- concerned British Columbians are focused on the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline, many are unaware that an existing pipeline is already carrying diluted tar sands bitumen right through our backyard.

The Trans-Mountain pipeline was built in the early ‘50s, and was intended to transport conventional oil for local use. However in 2005, Kinder Morgan (an American energy company) purchased the line and has instead been using the pipeline for transporting tar sands bitumen to the coast for export.

Now, Kinder Morgan has submitted a new proposal hoping to put in another pipeline parallel to the first.

Sheila Muxlow is a member of a group of concerned local residents known as PIPE UP (pro-information, pro-environment united people). The goal of PIPE UP, Muxlow says, is education and awareness about “the risks associated with transporting tar sands diluted bitumen.”

Public knowledge of the pipeline and its proposed twin line is limited, especially in comparison to public awareness of the Northern Gateway proposal.

“We don’t have stringent regulations when it comes to moving tar sands,” Muxlow said, explaining how Kinder Morgan was able to switch product without informing the public of the change. “Overall [the lack of awareness] has to do with the lack of regulations that exist for big companies to have to be transparent with the public when they are using old infrastructure to transport new product, regardless of how increased the toxicity is or the increased risk of spills.”

Kinder Morgan’s proposed expansion would mean a brand new pipeline from Edmonton to the coast. It would cross the Lower Mainland close to schools, residential areas, farmland, watersheds and drinking water sources.

PIPE UP’s major concern is that tar sand diluted bitumen is much more at risk of spillage than conventional oil.

“On a local level, the fact that tar sands diluted bitumen is more subject to spills is an issue because it is a more corrosive product,” Muxlow explained. “Tar sands at room temperature are solid, so to move it through a pipeline they have to dilute it with a cocktail of different solvents including benzene and other polyaromatic hydrocarbons. Then even so, when they get it to a state where it is fluid, they’ll have to pump it at higher temperatures, and at higher pressure to get it through the pipeline.”

This is an issue of concern even in brand new pipes, Muxlow said, let alone in a pipeline built in the early ‘50s. The Keystone pipeline, running from Alberta to Nebraska was built in 2010 and was designed specifically for transport of tar sand diluted bitumen. In its first year alone there were 12 instances of spillage.

An oil spill in the Fraser Valley would not only have a huge impact environmentally, Muxlow stated, but would be a significant hazard to human health.

“There is the issue with increased health risks for residents, with the chemical cocktail of dilutants they add to tar sands to move it through the pipes,” she said. “When it’s spilled, it evaporates into the air quite quickly. When it does that, it is this really noxious, odorous cloud that lingers in the air.”

Long-term effects are not fully understood, but benzene, which is a major component of the product, has been directly linked to blood cancer.

Michael Hale, who is a member of PIPE UP, was shocked to learn that the pipeline runs directly under his farmland, and that diluted bitumen is already being transported through his property. After the shock wore away, Hale became determined to know more.

“We have all these hearings for Enbridge northern gateway pipeline, yet suddenly there’s tar sands being shipped right here,” Hale says. “We have to talk about what our community wants and other alternatives.”

Hale looked specifically at the economics of the pipeline, trying to determine any benefits of an expansion.

“We are getting royalties,” Hale explained, “and that would double, but it’s still a pittance.”

“The other thing that really smacks you in the eye,” he continued, “is that the companies don’t address the economic costs and environmental risks associated with any spill. If you have a big spill, that comes to hundreds and millions of dollars in costs to clean up.”

This is the outcome that PIPE UP is struggling against.

“If we can stop Kinder Morgan from transporting tar sand diluted bitumen,” Muxlow concluded, “that would send a really strong message that this is not a piece of infrastructure that we want as part of our economy. We don’t want to be a doormat. The best way to help achieve that is just public awareness.”


The Dilbit Disaster: Inside The Biggest Oil Spill You’ve Never Heard Of, Part 1


This is part 1 of a three-part series. You can read it all on an eBook now.

MARSHALL, Mich.—An acrid stench had already enveloped John LaForge’s five-bedroom house when he opened the door just after 6 a.m. on July 26, 2010. By the time the building contractor hurried the few feet to the refuge of his Dodge Ram pickup, his throat was stinging and his head was throbbing.

LaForge was at work excavating a basement when his wife called a couple of hours later. The odor had become even more sickening, Lorraine told him. And a fire truck was parked in front of their house, where Talmadge Creek rippled toward the Kalamazoo River.

LaForge headed home. By the time he arrived, the stink was so intense that he could barely keep his breakfast down.

Something else was wrong, too.

Water from the usually tame creek had inundated his yard, the way it often did after heavy rains. But this time a black goo coated swaths of his golf course-green grass. It stopped just 10 feet from the metal cap that marked his drinking water well. Walking on the tarry mess was like stepping on chewing gum.

LaForge said he was stooped over the creek, looking for the source of the gunk, when two men in a white truck marked Enbridge pulled up just before 10 a.m. One rushed to LaForge’s open front door and disappeared inside with an air-monitoring instrument.

The man emerged less than a minute later, and uttered the words that still haunt LaForge today: It’s not safe to be here. You’re going to have to leave your house. Now.

John and Lorraine LaForge, their grown daughter and one of the three grandchildren living with them at the time piled into the pickup and their minivan as fast as they could, given Lorraine’s health problems. They didn’t pause to grab toys for the baby or extra clothes for the two children at preschool. They didn’t even lock up the house.

Within a half hour, they had checked into two rooms at a Holiday Inn Express, which the family of six would call home for the next 61 days.

Their lives had been turned upside down by the first major spill of Canadian diluted bitumen in a U.S. river. Diluted bitumen is the same type of oil that could someday be carried by the much-debated Keystone XL pipeline. If that project is approved, the section that runs through Nebraska will cross the Ogallala aquifer, which supplies drinking water for eight states as well as 30 percent of the nation’s irrigation water.

“People don’t realize how your life can change overnight,” LaForge told an InsideClimate News reporter as they drove slowly past his empty house in November 2011. “It has been devastating.”

* * * *

The spill happened in Marshall, a community of 7,400 in southwestern Michigan. At least 1 million gallons of oil blackened more than two miles of Talmadge Creek and almost 36 miles of the Kalamazoo River, and oil is still showing up 23 months later, as the cleanup continues. About 150 families have been permanently relocated and most of the tainted stretch of river between Marshall and Kalamazoo remained closed to the public until June 21.

The accident was triggered by a six-and-a-half foot tear in 6B, a 30-inch carbon steel pipeline operated by Enbridge Energy Partners, the U.S. branch of Enbridge Inc., Canada’s largest transporter of crude oil. With Enbridge’s costs already totaling more than $765 million, it is the most expensive oil pipeline spill since the U.S. government began keeping records in 1968. An independent federal agency, the National Transportation Safety Board, is investigating the accident, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has launched criminal and civil probes.

Residents organize townhall meeting on pipeline

Burnaby Now

September 22, 2012

Dear Editor:

RE: Kinder Morgan’s response to townhall meeting

Kinder Morgan’s response to a planned townhall meeting is to claim that the company has a good safety record for shipping “diluted bitumen” (tar sands diluted with a cocktail of toxic hydrocarbons) and that diluted bitumen is no more “corrosive” than other types of crude oil (Burnaby Now, September 19, 2012).

Both of Kinder Morgan’s claims deserve close scrutiny.

First, Kinder Morgan “has declined to provide details on spill incidents in the past decade, but National Energy Board data show there have been nine leaks on the pipeline since 2002, which spilled a total of nearly 4,800 barrels of oil.”(1) The major incidents were at Sumas tank farm in 2005 and at the Burnaby terminal in 2009. Evacuations took place in Burnaby in areas near Government Road in 2009 and Forest Grove in 2010.

Second, diluted bitumen is derived from tar sands which is relatively solid at room temperature. This solid matter must be super heated, mixed with toxic cocktail of hydrocarbons and placed under intense pressure in order to transport it by pipeline. While it is true that some industry groups maintain that diluted bitumen is not anymore “corrosive” than conventional crude, many science based studies, have shown that diluted bitumen is more abrasive and thus more likely to cause increased risk of damage to pipes and related infastructure.(2)

In fact, refiners have found that tar sands derived crude contains significantly higher quantities of abrasive quartz sand particles than conventional crude. These studies maintain that the combination of chemical corrosion and physical abrasion can dramatically increase the rate of pipeline deterioration.

This is not to mention the problem of trying to clean-up diluted bitumen when, not if, spills occur. The main problem is that when the solvents used to transport tar sands dissipate, the resulting heavy oil tends to sink. If spilled bitumen is not located and cleaned up within hours of a spill, the heavy oil sinks in water and/or soil making it virtually impossible to remove. This was amply demonstrated in the recent massive spill near Kalamazoo, Michigan. (3)

I urge everyone to learn more and discuss the facts. The planned Townhall Meeting on October 10, 2012 at Confederation Park will help shed more light on heavy oil.


Alan Williams

End Notes

1) http://www.vancouversun.com/technology/Pipeline+safety+records+under+scrutiny+more/6949239/story.html#ixzz216cI8TzE

2) Crude Oil Quality Association, Standard Handbook of Petroleum and Natural Gas Engineering, Planning Ahead for Effective Canadian Crude Processing, the National Association of Corrosion Engineers, and the National Petrochemical and Refiners Association.

3) http://www.huffingtonpost.com/henry-henderson/kalamazoo-river-spill-two_b_1700343.html

By Jennifer Moreau, Burnaby Now September 19, 2012

Burnaby residents opposed to Kinder Morgan’s pipeline expansion are holding a meeting to inform the public about the company’s plan to more than double oil shipments from Alberta to Burnaby.

“If you live in Burnaby, you are either directly affected by this proposed pipeline expansion or you know somebody who is,” said Mary Hatch of Burnaby Residents Opposing Kinder Morgan Expansion in a press release.

Kinder Morgan is planning to twin the Trans Mountain pipeline, increasing capacity from 300,000 barrels of oil per day to 750,000. The line was built in the 1950s and transports various types of oil products, including diluted bitumen, a blend of solid petroleum and condensate. The residents’ group stated that bitumen poses an increased risk in the event of an oil spill because the condensate evaporates and the bitumen sinks to the ocean or river floor.

“We want to see the threat of toxic spills reduced, not increased,” said Karl Perrin, a member of the group. “Hosting a town hall meeting allows us to get some very knowledgeable people in front of concerned Burnaby residents.”

The group also raised concerns about increased tanker traffic in the Burrard Inlet and Kinder Morgan’s plan to double capacity at the tank farm on Burnaby Mountain, as well as higher temperatures and pressures required to ship the diluted bitumen. Roughly a third of Kinder Morgan’s current shipments is bitumen diluted with condensate or synthetic crude, but the company can’t say how much it plans to move through the lines in the future if the expansion plan is approved. Kinder Morgan’s engineering director Michael Davies likened the transport of diluted bitumen to other forms of heavy crude.

“We haven’t seen any unusual corrosion or have had and other problems with

diluted bitumen,” Davies said. “At pipeline temperature, it’s not more acidic or corrosive than conventional crude oil.”

The first town hall meeting will be held Wednesday, Oct. 10, at 7 p.m. at Confederation Seniors’ Centre, at 4585 Albert St. Speakers will include Rueben George of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation, Burnaby-Douglas MP Kennedy Stewart, Mayor Derek Corrigan, Mary Hatch from the residents’ group, and Ben West and Sven Biggs from the Wilderness Committee and Tanker Free B.C.

BROKE was recently formed by local residents, some of whom were directly affected by the 2007 Kinder Morgan pipeline spill.
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