Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

Posts Tagged ‘oil spills

Tar Sands Tankers in U.S. Waters

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While I was polishing up last night’s post on Marc Garneau’s incredible claims about how safe we will be once the tankers moving diluted bitumen start moving, the following arrived in my in box.

As I am sure you are all aware, there are very few refineries set up to deal with diluted bitumen – or even heavy oil – and none at all in China. While the pipeline proponents blether about finding new markets for the tarsands, the reality is that dilbit will go to where they can refine it.screen-shot-2016-12-07-at-10-57-12-am

Picture from The Common Sense Canadian

And once again in the interests of getting information out there – since the CBC story about the tankers did not once mention dilbit – here is the entire press release:


 

NRDC Report: Tar Sands Tankers in U.S. Waters Could Skyrocket 12-Fold Under Canadian Producers’ Plans

A flood of dirty oil and possible damaging spills in the Atlantic, Pacific and Mississippi River threatens iconic species, tourism and communities; also would increase climate pollution double Keystone XL’s

WASHINGTON (December 7, 2016) – Canadian oil producers have roared back from President Obama’s rejection of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline with a scheme to send hundreds of tar sands-laden oil tankers and barges down the East and West coasts and the Mississippi River, the Natural Resources Defense Council warned in a report released today.

Under their plans, tar sands tankers and barges traveling U.S. waterways could skyrocket from fewer than 80 to more than 1,000 a year—dramatically increasing the chance of devastating spills.

That, according to the report, would put the Pacific and Atlantic coastlines, including the Salish Sea, San Francisco Bay, the Gulf of Maine, the Hudson and Columbia rivers, the Chesapeake Bay and the Florida Keys, at risk for costly spills for which there is no known effective cleanup technology. In addition, as many as 130 tar sands barges per year could travel on the Mississippi River, which today sees almost no such traffic.

The potential for destructive tar sands spills endangers hundreds of inland and coastal communities. And it puts at risk multibillion tourism and fishing industries, along with protected ocean preserves and abundant marine life; including whales, dolphins and unique deep-sea creatures.

“Canadian oil producers have a scheme to flood us with dangerous tar sands oil. Their hopes to send hundreds of millions of barrels of tar sands oil into U.S. waters are truly alarming. We can’t let them endanger American livelihoods, our most iconic and threatened species, or our beautiful wild places with these irresponsible plans,” said Joshua Axelrod, lead author of NRDC’s report.

“The risks and costs created by possible tar sands spills are so substantial that local, state and federal governments should take immediate action,” added Axelrod, policy analyst for NRDC’s Canada Project. “Protecting the public, communities and the environment from a plague of dangerous tar sands oil on U.S. waterways should be their top priority.”

If all that wasn’t bad enough, the climate impact of the planned tar sands development would be severe. Expanded production would destroy a large swath of Canada’s boreal forest—a carbon storehouse that helps to mitigate climate change. And burning all the tar sands oil that the industry seeks to develop would add 362 million metric tons of carbon pollution into the atmosphere each year—twice as much as Keystone XL’s tar sands would have contributed.

NRDC released the report, “The Tar Sands Tanker Threat: American Waterways in Industry’s Sights,” in a telephone-based press conference. Joining Axelrod for the event was: Stephanie Buffum, executive director at Friends of the San Juans; Michael Riordan, physicist and resident of Orcas Island; and Jewell James, a Lummi Nation representative and fisherman on the Salish Sea.

It outlines plans by Canadian producers to excavate tar sands oil from forests in northern Alberta and use four new pipeline and rail operations—and existing infrastructure on the Mississippi River—to move tar sands oil by tanker and barge down the coasts and on the Columbia, Hudson, and Mississippi rivers to reach heavy oil refinery operations in the Mid-Atlantic, Gulf coast and California.

Canadian producers are pressing ahead with these expansion plans, despite climate realities and findings like those in a 2016 report by the National Academy of Sciences that tar sands crude has unique physical properties leading to extreme clean-up challenges, including missing tools and technology that could clean the heavy, toxic oil in the event of a spill.

It’s notable that six years after a tar sands pipeline spill fouled Michigan’s Kalamazoo River and created a billion-dollar cleanup effort, the river is still contaminated.

The tar sands threat outlined in NRDC’s report isn’t theoretical. Just recently, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau approved Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain tar sands pipeline expansion, which would increase oil tanker traffic by 600 percent in the already-congested Salish Sea between Washington state and British Columbia.

If the pipeline is built, much of this traffic is expected to move south along the U.S. west coast to California heavy-oil refineries. Scientists contend the project is a death sentence for the region’s beloved Killer Whale population.

“The Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, just approved by Canada’s Prime Minister, would significantly increase tar sands tanker traffic and oil spill risk in the Salish Sea,” said Lovell Pratt, an expert in marine vessels and resident of San Juan Island. “According to a vessel traffic analysis, the project would cause an 800% increase in the risk of a major tar sands oil spill over the next ten years in Haro Strait and Boundary Pass—the critical habitat of the region’s highly endangered orca whales.”

NRDC recommends that in light of the tar sands threat:

* State and federal governments should reject vessel response plans for ships transporting tar sands oil because there’s no effective cleanup technology available for handling tar sands spills.
* Local, state and federal governments should take steps to evaluate legal, policy and research priorities to deal with potential tar sands oil spills and their impact on the environment.
* Policymakers in the U.S. and Canada should examine whether tar sands crude can be safely shipped on our rivers and oceans, and how enabling further development of carbon-intensive tar sands oil threatens the climate.

More information about the tar sands tanker and barge threat report is here: https://www.nrdc.org/resources/tar-sands-tanker-threat-american-waterways-industrys-sights

A blog on the issue by Josh Axelrod is here: https://www.nrdc.org/experts/josh-axelrod/new-report-tar-sands-industry-targets-americas-waterways

More about NRDC’s work related to fossil fuels is here: https://www.nrdc.org/issues/reduce-fossil-fuels

An audio recording of the press conference on the tar sands tanker and barge threat will be here: http://www.hastingsgroupmedia.com/NRDC/TarSandsTankerReport.mp3

Earlier this year NRDC released another report “Tar Sands in the Atlantic Ocean: TransCanada’s Proposed Energy East Pipeline,” focusing on TransCanada’s plans for the Energy East pipeline that would dramatically increase tanker traffic along the East Coast. That report is here:  https://www.nrdc.org/resources/tar-sands-atlantic-ocean-transcanadas-proposed-energy-east-pipeline

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The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 2 million members and online activists. Since 1970, our lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world’s natural resources, public health, and the environment. NRDC has offices in New York City; Washington, D.C.; Los Angeles; San Francisco; Chicago; Bozeman, Montana; and Beijing. Visit us at www.nrdc.org and follow us on Twitter @NRDC.

Written by Stephen Rees

December 7, 2016 at 11:01 am

James Moore Gets a Surprise Delivery

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A link to this video arrived in my email this morning.

I am not sure that the direct confrontation achieves very much, but the speech by the former commander of the Kitsilano Coast Guard station is telling.

Marathassa

Just to nitpick a bit more, the Marathassa was not a “grain tanker” (whatever that is) and the spill was Bunker C fuel oil, not diluted bitumen which is the most likely export from the expansion of the Kinder Morgan pipeline. Dilbit sinks. There is also some doubt that 80% of the spill was recovered as there could well be oil residues that sank from the fuel spill – which is why fishing in the inlet has now been banned.

The email was intended to recruit more people to attend direct action training. I am not about to take on that myself, but click here if you would like more information

Written by Stephen Rees

April 23, 2015 at 10:17 am

Posted in Environment, politics

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Tankers present a very real risk of major disaster

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The Times Colonist has a poignant letter today from Bob Bossin of Gabriola Island. It starts as follows

“The greatest advance in oil-spill cleanup technology,” a cleanup expert told me almost 20 years ago, “is the move from the short-handled shovel to the long-handled shovel.” Nothing of significance has changed since.

The fact is, marine oil spills cannot be cleaned up; they can only be prevented.

Right now a lot of people are trying to use the current financial situation to get around the sort of controls that are needed to prevent another Exxon Valdez.  In fact that was quite a small spill – far less than the infamous Torrey Canyon that I recall going down off Cornwall in my younger days – with dead birds washing up for months afterwards.

We are being told that it is “necessary” to relax all sorts of environmental controls in order to dig our way out of this recession. This is the technique that was revealed by Naomi Klein’s “Shock Doctrine”. We are told that in order to see a rapid wave of new investment bringing much needed new jobs “bureaucratic controls” and “duplication” need to be reduced. What they really mean is that if they can get around these safeguards, industry costs will fall and profits will rise – and the environment will suffer.

In BC there are two big issues being pushed like this. The Enbridge proosal for an oil pipeline between Kitimat and the oil sands, and the continuing push for the development of off shore oil and gas. The Kitimat terminal would handle imports condensate – a refinery byproduct used to help extract usable products from the sticky bitumen and sand mixture being hauled out of Northern Alberta – as well as exports of that oil. What might happen to oil and gas found under the sea bed is not yet determined. It will depend on locations and volumes but a common practice is to load tankers from platforms at sea rather than build pipelines from the well head to shore.

And if you think that the lessons of the Exxon Valdez have been taken to heart by the oil industry takes some time to read the Seattle Post Intelligencer special report on oil tankers – and the accompanying PBS documentary.

I am indebted to Karen Wonders and the BC Environmental Network list serve for raising this issue and providing some of the links

Written by Stephen Rees

February 16, 2009 at 3:06 pm