Stephen Rees's blog

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

Posts Tagged ‘Tar Sands

Book Review “The Patch”

with 5 comments

Alex McLean Oilsands 11 Suncor site, Alberta, Canada 140407-0617_0

The People, Pipelines, and Politics of the Oil Sands

by Chris Turner

Written by Stephen Rees

September 10, 2017 at 4:27 pm

There Will Be Spills

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My opposition to the TransMountain Pipeline expansion is that it will be redundant sooner rather than later. But if course that is not taken into account by any regulatory process. The pipeline has been approved and the new BC government seems to rewinding its pre-election promise to stop it. It will not just feed the export terminal in Burnaby, it will also feed the oil refineries in Washington state. It is also very unlikely that much of dilbit will be exported to Asia: most of it will go to the US refineries that can cope with heavy crudes. This will inevitably lead to the extirpation of the resident orca population in the Salish Sea already suffering due to the lack of salmon that they depend on. The rest of this post is taken from a Greenpeace press release. Once again I doubt that the corporate media will do anything but soft shoe shuffle around this issue and perhaps bleat again about jobs (just as they did with LNG) even though the employment prospects for renewables are far better than fossil fuels.


New report reveals one spill a week in US from three tar sands pipeline companies

3 August 2017 (EDMONTON) — A map and policy brief released today by Greenpeace detail a legacy of spills — roughly one every week in the United States since 2010 — from three companies proposing to build four tar sands pipelines. The map plots the location and size of 373 spills from pipelines owned by Kinder Morgan, Enbridge, TransCanada and their subsidiaries, totaling 63,221 barrels of hazardous liquids in just seven years.

These “Dirty Three” of pipeline companies, two of which are Canadian, are at varying stages of building four controversial oil pipelines from Alberta’s tar sands across North America. Data in the map and brief covers spills in the United States, where TransCanada is attempting to re-ignite the Keystone XL pipeline and Enbridge is in the late stages of permitting for its Line 3 Expansion pipeline, which would travel over 1,000 miles, crossing North Dakota and Minnesota to its destination on Lake Superior in Wisconsin. Kinder Morgan hopes to begin construction on the Trans Mountain Expansion pipeline in British Columbia this fall, while TransCanada has restarted the approval process for its Energy East pipeline, which would pass through six provinces.

Key findings in the brief include:

  • Despite industry claims, pipeline spills have remained a steady problem, with significant spills of crude oil and petroleum products increasing over the last several years across many states along the three companies’ pipeline networks. The companies’ 373 spills since 2010 account for a total of 63,221 barrels of hazardous liquids, the largest being Enbridge’s 20,082 barrels of tar sands oil spilled into the Kalamazoo River.

  • Extrapolating from current rates of incidents, Kinder Morgan can expect 36 significant spills (see Note 2 below), Keystone XL can expect 59 significant spills in its lifetime and Line 3 Expansion can expect 51.

  • Along with being far more carbon-intensive than conventional crude, diluted bitumen has been shown to be much harder to clean up when spilled in water. Both Line 3 Expansion and Keystone XL make multiple water crossings and run near key watersheds and wetland habitats.

“This data exposes these tar sands pipeline companies’ worrying safety records. There’s good reason for concern among Indigenous Peoples and communities living along these companies’ pipeline routes on both sides of the border — it’s their lands and waters that would be directly contaminated by an oil spill. With these three companies and their subsidiaries creating one spill a week in the US, it’s not a question of ‘if’ there will be a spill, but ‘when and how big’ that spill will be,” said Mike Hudema, a climate and energy campaigner with Greenpeace Canada.

Financial support for these pipelines is being provided by banks including TD, RBC, CIBC and JPMorgan Chase. Credit union association Desjardins has also provided financial support, but recently announced a moratorium on oil pipeline financing and investments in response to concerns about the threats pipelines pose to the environment and Indigenous rights. Greenpeace Canada and Greenpeace USA are part of an international coalition of civil society and Indigenous organizations campaigning to urge financial institutions to pull their investments in tar sands pipelines given the high financial, reputational and environmental risks they pose.

(1) In Canada, pipeline spill reporting falls under a combination of federal and provincial jurisdictions, leaving Canadians without a central, up-to-date set of data due to discrepancies in the transparency, quality and user-friendliness across jurisdictions. One of the most comprehensive spill databases in Canada was actually compiled by Global Television, which showed that Alberta (the epicentre of tar sands production) averaged 2 spills a day for the 37 years covered by the dataset. [Note that the map linked to in this paragraph only covers Alberta.]

(2) PHMSA data for crude oil pipelines shows 0.001 significant incidents per year per mile, so assuming the U.S. rate for Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain Expansion pipeline, we would expect to see 0.001 sig spills/yr/mi x 715mi x 50yr = 36 significant spills in a 50 year lifetime.

Written by Stephen Rees

August 3, 2017 at 10:22 am

“It’s our environment and our economy”

with 3 comments

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A guest post by Andy Shadrack

If Alberta Premier Rachel Notley and Prime Minister Trudeau think that they can dictate to British Columbians on the basis of whose economy and environment is more important, then they need to think again.

We have an important sport and commercial salmon fishery, and a coastline that is the envy of every tourism operator in the country. And yet Ms Notley and Mr Trudeau think we should sacrifice our economic interests for theirs.

First, no amount of money could fix a crude oil spill. Just ask the Alaskan fishermen and First Nations people impacted by the Exxon Valdez spill. So we are not talking about exporting twinkies, lumber, natural gas or even coal. We are talking about a substance that could severely damage or destroy our marine ecosystem.

BC has only one marine ecosystem and no amount of money could help rebuild it. Question: why are Alberta and Ottawa not supporting refining tar sands crude where it is being mined?

That way we could all benefit from purchasing Canadian refined oil products and end the importation of foreign oil. The answer I keep getting is that it is too expensive and not a viable economic solution.

Well, guess what, exporting crude oil through BC’s fragile marine ecosystem is not a viable economic alternative either. Nor do we want to be held hostage to Alberta’s economic needs.

We in BC have as much right to protect our environment and economy as Albertans. So, Ms Notley, a little less of “it’s our right” and “the federal government has made adecision”, as Mr Trudeau also promised us that the impacts of resource extraction would be balanced against the needs of protecting the environment.

It’s our environment and our economy that’s at stake here, so please start by respecting us and that fact. After that, we can negotiate as equal partners in confederation and not from some subservient position of just because you mined it, you have a right to export it.

Andy is someone I met when I joined the Green Party of BC. He posted this on his facebook page today. I decided to copy and paste it here.

Written by Stephen Rees

June 13, 2017 at 5:25 pm

Dire Straits

with 4 comments

The increase in shipping traffic if the TransMountain pipeline expansion is actually implemented poses a quite extraordinary threat to the Salish Sea. I heard on the CBC yesterday that the ships used to load at pipeline terminal in Burnaby are smaller than optimal, so they will be running a shuttle service to supertankers moored off the coast somewhere for transhipment. And do not forget that we are talking about diluted bitumen: this is a heavy mixture of tar and sand mixed with natural gas condensate to get it to flow. In the event of a spill, the lighter fractions quickly evaporates, and the bitumen sinks. That means it is for all intents and purposes irrecoverable. Indeed, I think, as campaigners against the pipeline, we need to take a lesson from Jordan Bateman and repeat “dilbit sinks” whenever anyone talks about what a great idea tar sands exports are.

The following is a letter that Susan Jones has sent to our politicians. She copied it to Fraser Voices and has given me permission to reproduce it here.


 

The Right Honourable Justin P. Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada

The Honourable Catherine McKenna, Minister of Environment and Climate Change

The Honourable Dominic LeBlanc, Minister of Fisheries and Oceans

The Honourable Jim Carr, Minister of Natural Resources

The Honourable Marc Garneau, Minister of Transport

The Honourable Amarjeet Sohi, Minister of Infrastructure and Communities

Members of Parliament    Ottawa, Canada, K1A 0E4

Have you any idea of what you have just approved with the Kinder Morgan pipeline in British Columbia?

Your statistics and statements of fact are not correct and should be referenced.

According to the website below:

“ More than 10,000 vessels transit  the lower Strait of Georgia, Boundary Pass and  Haro  Strait each year. But that includes  tugs, fishing boats, private  yachts and  ferry boats.  There are about  3,000 large tankers, container ships and  bulk carriers that pass the same way each year.  Adding  another 400 tankers would increase  the total traffic to about  ten ships a day, a bit less than  one every hour,  coming  or going.”

http://www.tideflats.com/oil-tankers-in-haro-straight/

This is not 1% increase as stated by the federal Liberal Government.  It is more than a 13% increase in large ships.

Also, you have not included other planned increases as outlined in the article referenced below.  If all proceed, there will be a 40% increase in large vessels through the narrow shipping lane from Vancouver to the Pacific  This is also the route traveled by the endangered Southern Resident Killer Whales (Orcas) which you are entrusted to protect.

http://www.islandtides.com/assets/reprint/oil_20140306.pdf

The information you have broadcast is not “evidence based” and it is not “safe” for the amazing environment of the Strait of Georgia, Boundary Pass, Haro Strait and the Strait of Juan de Fuca.  Just take a look at the maps below and see how narrow the shipping passes are from Vancouver to the Pacific.  In addition, the passage from the Juan de Fuca Strait to the Pacific is dangerous and subject to strong winds, and powerful currents.  The area, also known as the Big Eddy is rich in nutrients supporting entire food chains – from plankton to whales.

Take a look at the route below and think about the impact of even a minor accident or spill.  Even without an accident, the noise impact of increased numbers of large ships interferes with whale communication leading to mortality.  The impacts of increased numbers of large vessels cannot be effectively mitigated.

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screen-shot-2016-12-01-at-10-33-27-amDownload this map in .pdf format

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Living Oceans

 

Written by Stephen Rees

December 1, 2016 at 10:44 am

Vast majority of carbon reserves must stay in the ground to meet 1.5C target.

with 13 comments

The current news about the PM and the Mayor of Montreal having meetings about pipelines – and the not public hearings into Kinder Morgan’s desire to exapnd the TransMountain pipeline – both miss the most important point. These things must not be built. They are both designed to increase the use of the tar sands, and thus are not consistent with the undertakings Canada made in Paris. The following is a News Release put out by GreenPeace which I doubt will be printed by much of the mainstream media, so I am putting it here.

NEWS RELEASE

Seventy-four North American groups call on the prime minister and premiers to take swift action to meet Canada’s new climate goal.

Vast majority of carbon reserves must stay in the ground to meet 1.5C target.

January 27, 2016

On the eve of a meeting of Canada’s environment ministers in Ottawa to talk about the national climate strategy, 74 organizations – representing millions of people in Canada and the U.S. – sent an open letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Canada’s premiers outlining the steps Canada needs to take to fulfill its international commitment to limit global warming to 1.5 C, as agreed to by 195 countries at the Paris climate summit.

The letter explicitly states that new tar sands pipelines like Energy East and Kinder Morgan cannot be built if Canada is to meet its commitment. Instead, the prime minister and the premiers must work to decarbonize Canada’s economy and speed the rapid uptake of renewables, efficiency and sustainable transportation options.

“Canadian decision makers have the opportunity to be real climate leaders in the clean energy era – but they must accept the science to do it. There is simply no room for major new pipelines in a safe climate future,” says Steven Guilbeault of Équiterre. “The science is demanding we keep the carbon in the ground and start the transition. That is a reality that our premiers and the prime minister need to embrace.”

“We’re reminding the Canadian and provincial governments of the tremendous work that needs to be done for Canada to meet its global climate commitment,” said Mike Hudema, Climate and Energy campaigner with Greenpeace Canada. “One and a half degrees Celsius is a level vital for the survival of millions of people and the safety of all life on the planet. We don’t have much time to make the transition to 100% renewable energy and we can’t afford to build new pipelines that send us in the opposite direction.”

As the federal and provincial governments collaborate on the design of a new national climate plan in the 90 days following the Paris Agreement, the repositioning of Canada as a global climate leader has never been more important. An ambitious, just, science-based plan aligned with limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees will require all provinces and the country to decarbonize their economies and keep the vast majority of remaining carbon reserves in the ground.

“To have a decent chance at limiting global warming to even 2 degrees, 80% of fossil fuel reserves globally must stay in the ground. The 1.5 degree limit requires us to go even further faster,” says Hannah McKinnon of Oil Change International. “This is especially true in a country like Canada that is home to the third largest oil reserves in the world. We cannot lock ourselves into decades more of unwanted pollution by expanding pipelines and production in places like the Alberta tar sands. Instead, we need to move the other way.”

“What we need now is leadership on a pathway towards energy and economic diversification, not more short-sighted attempts to force pipelines across our country – Canadians didn’t stand for it before and we won’t stand for it now,” says Graham Saul, Executive Director of Ecology Ottawa.  “Canada has exceptional opportunities in the clean energy economy. We could completely redefine ourselves as a renewable energy superpower, create tens of thousands of jobs from coast to coast to coast, and show the world what it means to responsibly transition to zero-carbon within a few short decades. This is what will build a strong economy, not saddling ourselves to decades more of last century’s dirty energy.”

The letter concludes with the signatories stating their commitment to working with federal, provincial and municipal governments, along with First Nations, Metis and Inuit leaders and the growing climate movement to meet these challenges and move beyond oil.

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The full letter and signatories can be seen here www.one-point-five.ca

Written by Stephen Rees

January 27, 2016 at 7:42 am

The West Coast Tar Sands Invasion

with 6 comments

I am reproducing below the text of a press release received this morning from The Natural Resources Defense Council and Forest Ethics. It seems to me to be written for the US market, but no doubt there will also be a version seen on Canadian media. The Press Release contains a link to the NRDC web page and from there to 21 page PDF report with 216 citations.   This illustrates what they are concerned about.

West Coast Tar Sands Threat

West Coast Tar Sands Threat

I did not draw this map of course. I would have included the BC/Alaska border, the Chevron refinery in Burnaby and labelled the TransMountain pipeline as a proposed expansion.  

The local opposition is currently being concentrated on the risks of spills in the marine environment, due to recent events in English Bay. The report looks at broader implications. And the list of endorsements includes many familiar logos

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NEW STUDY: TAR SANDS TO SKYROCKET WEST COAST’S CLIMATE AND AIR POLLUTION

New Tar Sands Industry Plans Threaten Millions, Putting Hundreds of Communities, Waterways, and Natural Landmarks at Risk

SACRAMENTO (April 28, 2015) – The Pacific coast faces a looming health, climate, and environmental crisis posed by an influx of tar sands fuel from oil interests in Alberta, Canada, according to new analysis released today by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), NextGen Climate America, ForestEthics, and a coalition of 27 partner organizations. The tar sands industry’s long term goal to triple production will require flooding both Gulf and West Coast heavy crude refineries with tar sands crude in coming decades. The increased transport of tar sands by rail, pipeline, barge, and ocean tankers will threaten the water and air quality of hundreds of communities, heighten the risk of tar sands oil spills and explosions, and reverse decades of public health, energy, and climate successes from California to British Columbia.

“The West Coast is about to fall victim to a tar sands invasion, unless our leaders choose to protect the health and safety of our communities and say no to Big Oil,” said Anthony Swift, Deputy-Director of NRDC’s Canada Project. “New tar sands proposals on the West Coast would increase the region’s carbon emissions and create more than two and a half times the carbon emissions of San Francisco. At a time when the nation is moving toward a clean energy future, there is no reason to welcome the dirtiest oil on the planet into our communities.”

The report, West Coast Tar Sands Invasion (http://www.nrdc.org/land/west-coast-tar-sands-threat.asp), examines the spike in oil infrastructure, climate pollution, and public health risks that will result from oil industry proposals to expand tar sands refining and export capacity on the West Coast. The report finds that new oil industry proposals would result in the following:

* A greater than tenfold increase the amount of tar sands moving into and through the North American west coast by more than 1.7 million barrels per day

* Increase the region’s carbon pollution by up to 26 million metric tons – the equivalent of adding 5.5 million cars to the road

* Create1,500 miles of new pipelines in British Columbia

* Increase tanker and barge traffic twenty-five fold, from 80 to over 2,000 vessels along the Pacific west coast, on the Salish Sea, and down the Columbia River

* Increase tar sands at West Coast refineries by eight-fold, from 100,000 barrels per day (bpd) to 800,000 bpd by 2040

* Create a dozen new rail terminals that would significantly increase the region’s crude-by-rail traffic

* Place hundreds of communities, critical waterways and other environmentally-sensitive areas at risk of a tar sands oil spill

* Put fenceline communities and millions of West Coast residents at greater risk than ever to increased toxic air pollution, derailments, explosions, and other accidents that harm public health along with air and water quality

“Across North America people are saying no to the oil industry’s plans to move the world’s dirtiest, most explosive crude to the West Coast,” says Todd Paglia, ForestEthics executive director. “Tar sands threaten the safety of millions of Americans who live in the oil train blast zone, our drinking water supplies, and our coastlines. For oil companies with razor thin margins on this expensive oil, it’s safety last. But we are organized to fight and stop the oil trains, pipelines, and tankers that carry this explosive, toxic, unnecessary crude oil.”

The report also finds the proposed tar sands expansion puts iconic places such as Washington’s San Juan Islands, the Columbia River Gorge, Oregon’s Willamette Valley, the Sacramento Watershed, and the San Francisco Bay at risk to spills and accidents. Tar sands spills have proven to be more damaging than conventional spills, as heavy tar sands bitumen sinks below the water surface making it even more difficult to contain or recover should a spill occur in one of the hundreds of rivers, streams and critical watersheds across the West Coast vulnerable to expanded tar sands pipeline and rail traffic. A spill could devastate local economies, harm human health, kill critical species, damage First Nation territories, devastate pristine wilderness, and lead to an especially costly and challenging cleanup.

The study had clear recommendations for decision-makers: States should aggressively pursue clean energy strategies that discourage dirty fuels like tar sands while decreasing the region’s dependence on oil, including policies that spur low carbon transportation and energy solutions such as broadened electric vehicle use and the development of clean fuels.

“As a nation we are at a critical juncture. We do not have to expose hard-working Americans to the health and safety risks of oil trains running through the heart of our communities,” said Tom Steyer, President of NextGen Climate America. “Instead, we can choose to support forward-thinking climate policies, like those being proposed by Governor Brown and the legislature here in California. Together we can build a safer, cleaner, healthier and more prosperous energy future – one that does not depend on tar sands and other dirty fossil fuels.”

Additionally, decision-makers must reject new major tar sands infrastructure projects and ensure all proposed fossil fuel infrastructure go through a thorough public health and environmental review process. State and federal regulators should enact safety, spill response, and air pollution standards that ensure the risk of a tar sands spills is eliminated, the public is safeguarded from derailments, and communities are protected from toxic refinery emissions.

“Dirty crude needs to stay in the ground, and we need to protect our communities and our planet from increases in carbon emissions and from these dangerous projects that are being proposed by the oil industry,” said Nile Malloy, Northern California Program Director at Communities for a Better Environment. “Environmental justice communities from Richmond in the San Francisco Bay Area to Wilmington in Los Angeles have been put in harm’s way for too long, and we are united to fight against this injustice towards creating meaningful and lasting solutions. We need a just transition away from fossil fuels and aggressive investments in a new thriving inclusive clean energy economy.”

Written by Stephen Rees

April 28, 2015 at 1:33 pm

Posted in energy, Environment

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Greenpeace ad takes aim at Harper’s tar sands greenwash

This post is courtesy of Peter Louwe of Greenpeace who was kind enough to send me a Press Release. I do not watch much tv these days, and when I do I pick non-commercial channels when I can. Which is a shame when you miss things like this. I hope they do go viral on social media and perhaps this will help.

The Harper government’s performance on the environment in general and the tar sands in particular is hard to satirize. Its a bit like Tom Lehrer said, when they gave Henry Kissinger the Nobel Peace Prize, it is now really hard to do satire.

Actually this is the first of three and Greenpeace wants to raise funds to put all of them on the air. You can help, of course. As usual, these things come with a plea for cash – or signatures on a petition.

Greenpeace lampoons government ads that “greenwash” tar sands

6 June 2013 – Greenpeace Canada launched a satirical television ad campaign today aimed at debunking the Harper government’s campaign to “greenwash” the tar sands.

The 30-second ad stars comedic actor Peter Keleghan, known for his work on “18 to Life” and “The Red Green Show,” as Environment Minister Peter Kent. In the ad, he complains that “being the kind of environment minister who makes big oil companies clean up their mess isn’t easy – but buying ads is!”

At issue are the federal government’s “Responsible Resource Development” ads, which depict the tar sands industry as environmentally friendly. First aired in 2012, Ottawa will spend $16 million in tax dollars this year to keep the ads running on television.

Greenpeace will promote the ad on social media before it airs the week of July 8th on CBC’s George Stroumboulopoulos Tonight. The organization is appealing to viewers to sign a petition aimed at Prime Minister Harper as well as contribute a donation to run the ad more widely.

“This project gave me the opportunity to help Greenpeace make an important statement on how the federal government is spending our money to promote the oil industry,” said Keleghan. “It richly deserves being lampooned.”

In addition to the television spot, Greenpeace made two longer skits featuring Sheila McCarthy and Richard Blackburn, who respectively play a sly assistant and exuberant Harper.

All three videos (available at http://www.stopgreenwash.ca) were directed by Michael Kennedy, whose work includes the hit sitcom “Little Mosque on the Prairie.” Kennedy said he jumped at the chance to direct the videos: “Serious issues deserve serious attention, but sometimes humour works best when you’re trying to reach people.”

“There is no throne so high that it can’t be shaken by laughter from beneath,” echoed Greenpeace Climate and Energy Coordinator Keith Stewart. “Let’s laugh those government ads off the air!”

Keleghan, who has shown his comedic talents in episodes of Seinfeld and Cheers as well as in starring roles in The Newsroom and Billable Hours, previously appeared as Minister Kent in Greenpeace’s “Polluter Harmony” video two years ago.

Written by Stephen Rees

June 6, 2013 at 8:30 am