The Dirt ~ April 16, 2013

By Der T. Tarsands

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

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QUOTE OF THE WEEK

“It’s crazy. It helps Canada, but it does nothing for the United States. I don’t see why I need to be a mule for Canada to pump its tarsands oil through my ground and through my water. We don’t want to take that chance – not for a product that’s not U.S.”

~ Nebraska farmer Jim Tarnick

FEATURE DIRT

Going for one million “No to Keystone XL” comments

As Exxon admits that its Pegasus Pipelinespilled at least half a million gallons of tar sands crude, more than three times larger than its initial estimates, into the streets and waterways of Mayflower, Arkansas, a diverse coalition environmentalists, ranchers, landowners, Native Americans and politicians are getting ready to prevent TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline from ever committing a similar disaster in the Midwest.

The “All Risk, No Reward Coalition” launched a flurry of TV ads that, according to the press release, “will educate the  American people on the ‘All Risk and No Reward” of TransCanada’s Keystone XL tar sands pipeline and urge President  Obama  and  U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to reject it.” The TV ad is saturating the airwaves in Grand Island, Nebraska in anticipation of a ThursdayState Department hearing on the Northern Route Approval Act, a bill that would remove the final decision on the fate of Keystone XL from President Obama’s hands and approving the pipeline outright.

“[Alberta Premier Alison] Redford and Canadian oil companies may benefit from the pipeline, but folks here at home will be the ones taking on all of the risk, without any reward,” said Rachel Wolf, a spokeswoman for the All Risk No Reward group, in response to Redford’s recent visit to Washington to lobby for the approval of Keystone XL.

The Nebraska hearing follows a similar affair held in Washington for the House energy committee, where Canadian climate economist Mark Jaccard testified that, despite the conclusion in the State Department’s Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS), “The denial of Keystone XL will help to slow development of the oil sands. As a growing source of carbon emissions, slowing the expansion of oil sands is an important step.” Numerous oil industry pundits and executives have made the same claim.

Meanwhile, U.S. environmental organizations are ramping up a 10-day online campaign to deliver one million #NoKXL comments to President Obama and Secretary Kerry by Earth Day (April 22), the last day of the public comment period for the Keystone XL SEIS. More than 700,000 people have said no to KXL already, and organizers are hoping to break the one-million mark before the weekend.

According to 350.org’s website, “The Keystone XL Pipeline is dangerous, dirty, and destructive – and the latest Environmental Impact Statement was both inaccurate and incomplete. It ignores the pipeline’s significant risk for toxic spills, ignores its catastrophic impacts on our climate, and ignores the clear consensus among financial analysts and oil executives who agree Keystone XL will make the difference in tar sands development.”

Cooking the Books, a new report from Oil Change International, calculates the true carbon footprint of the Keystone XL pipeline. If approved, Keystone XL would be responsible for at least 181 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) each year, comparable to the tailpipe emissions from more than 37.7 million cars or 51 coal-fired power plants. Between 2015 and 2050, the pipeline alone would result in emissions of 6.34 billion metric tons of CO2e – an amount greater than the total carbon dioxide emissions of the United States in 2011.

To have your voice heard loud and clear, visit 350.org today.

CLEANING UP DIRTY OIL

Joe Oliver, Canadian Government Out of Touch with Reality

-3_9This just in: More evidence that the Canadian federal government, especially Canada’s Minister of Natural Resources Joe Oliver, is clearly out of touch with reality.

Just three days before the United States and China, the world’s two biggest carbon polluters, signed what could be a ground-breaking agreement to accelerate the reduction of greenhouse gas pollution, Oliver was telling the La Presse editorial board (in French) that, “I think that people aren’t as worried as they were before about global warming of two degrees. Scientists have recently told us that our fears (on climate change) are exaggerated.”

When pressed, Oliver was not able to identify which scientists he was using as a source, La Pressereported, but his staff pointed to an article by Lawrence Solomon, a Canadian writer and infamous climate-change skeptic and denier, and the founder and executive director of Energy Probe, an environmental policy organization and fossil fuel lobbyist group.

“The minister is getting briefed by distorted media reports about climate change,” said Keith Stewart, climate and energy campaign co-ordinator for Greenpeace Canada, who also called Oliver’s views on the most serious threat humanity ever has faced “appalling” and “shocking.”

In direct contradiction to Oliver’s unverifiable claims, a statement issued by the United States and Chinasaid the signatories of the new agreement “consider that the overwhelming scientific consensus regarding climate change constitutes a compelling call to action crucial to having a global impact on climate change,” and that the “urgent need to intensify global efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions… is more critical than ever…. Such action is crucial both to contain climate change and to set the kind of powerful example that can inspire the world.”

Meanwhile, Oliver might want to check the results of a new poll conducted by Forum Research Inc. that indicates that Canadians overwhelming believe climate change is real (81 per cent) and, to a lesser degree, that it is caused by human activities (54 per cent). Perhaps Oliver was simply speaking to (and/or on behalf of) his base – only 60 per cent of Conservatives believe climate change is a reality, compared to 88 per cent of Liberals and 92 per cent of New Democrats. Only 55 per cent of Albertans who actually believe in climate change think it is caused by humans, compared with 44 per cent of Conservatives across Canada.

Oliver’s comments should come as no surprise. His boss, Prime Minister Stephen Harper, has beenquoted often enough disparaging or countering the science on climate change. In 2007, a letter written by Harper in 2002 stated that anthropogenic climate change is based on “tentative and contradictory scientific evidence” that focuses on carbon dioxide, which is “essential to life.” He also referred to the Kyoto Protocol, which required that Canada make significant cuts in emissions, while countries like Russia, India and China face less of a burden, as “essentially a socialist scheme to suck money out of wealth-producing nations.”

It’s no wonder the Harper government pulled out of Kyoto, gutted Canada’s environmental laws, and pimps for the tar sands industry as if it were the only way to build a responsible and sustainable economy in Canada.

Oil Industry Behind Gutting of Canada’s Environmental Laws

Turns out, it wasn’t even the Harper government’s idea to gut Canada’s most important environmental legislation. It was the oil industry’s.

Recently released internal documents indicate that the strategy to put multiple changes to a series of environmental protection laws into a single piece of legislation was recommended by lobbyists for the oil and gas industry. The briefing scenario, prepared for a senior Environment Canada official attending an industry awards gala organized by the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP), suggested that oil and gas companies didn’t want a series of separate legislative changes, but rather an “omnibus” approach.

“CAPP did not express any opinion on what legislative process the federal government should use to implement the changes,” CAPP vice president, Janet Annesley, told Postmedia News’ Mike De Souza. According to the same article, Annesley’s comment contradicts the industry demands regarding environmental laws such as the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act and the Species At Risk Act.

“CAPP has raised issues with the ‘one-off’ reviews of specific legislation such as CEAA and SARA and would rather have a more strategic omnibus legislative approach,” said the briefing material, released through access to information legislation.

Makes you wonder who is running the show in Ottawa, Annesley and CAPP, or the politicians we elected to represent us.

STOPPING DANGEROUS PIPELINE EXPANSION

Poll: Canadians oppose pipelines the government wants to build

On April 12, just two days after a new pollindicated that Canadians oppose both the Keystone XL and Northern Gateway pipelines, Canada’s National Energy Board released 199 “potential conditions” that Enbridge would need to fulfill if it gets the green light to build its Northern Gateway Pipeline.

Although the 45-page list of conditions “does not constitute approval,” the conditions set out the terms, according to the Globe and Mail, “under which Enbridge will have to abide if it gains approval for Northern Gateway.” One would have thought, perhaps naively, that many of the items should go without saying, things that should have been included in Enbridge’s application for a permit to build Northern Gateway in the first place. Things like actually implementing Enbridge’s “voluntary” spill and tanker safety plan, and holding nearly $1 billion in liability coverage, including $100 million in “ready cash” that can be accessed within 10 business days of a large spill to pay for cleanup costs. You can see the whole list here.

What’s most troubling, perhaps, is that these same conditions were not placed on the Canadian portion of the TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline, which went ahead with just 22 conditions. “By the Keystone XL measure,” the Globe and Mail wrote, “the proposed Enbridge conditions are nearly an order of magnitude more numerous, and far more stringent.”

For example, the NEB asked TransCanada to simply file “a list of pipe that was received from the pipe supplier” before it began pumping oil. With Gateway, the NEB wants Enbridge to provide numerous bits of documentation, including a full engineering report on the steel it intends to use – and that report must be filed three months before the pipe is manufactured.

Hmmm. If Enbridge must meet such stringent requirements, why not TransCanada, or any company that wants to build a new pipeline or repurpose an old one?

The conditions, of course, may be moot, considering that only 32 per cent of Canadians are “in favour” of building the Northern Gateway. A majority of Albertans (55 per cent) support the project, compared with just 33 per cent of British Columbians, who would bear the brunt of the risks and the consequences from the inevitable oil spills. Just 38 per cent of Canadians support the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline.

If Canadians don’t want them, one wonders why Canadian politicians spend so much of their time and money trying to shove them down our throats.

Spills, spills and more spills go unreported

Oil spills, it seems, are something of an epidemic these days. While North Americans gape in horror at the disastrous consequences of the Pegasus pipeline rupture that covered Mayflower, Arkansas with a thick blanket of toxic tar sands oil, details of other spills are either reported late or not at all.

A Manitoba pipeline gushed 100,000 letres of oil for as long as a month, one of 47 so far this year in Manitoba, before it was finally reported by the media. Suncor, which leaked 350,000 litres of toxic tar sands wastewater into the Athabasca River for 10 hours last month (for the second time in two years, it turns out), also spilled 225 barrels of soybean-based diesel fuel into Burrard Inlet from its Port Moody, BC facility, but didn’t bother to tell anyone about it.

Tests indicate that the wastewater Suncor leaked from the tar sands tailings pond did not meet Alberta’s Surface Water Guidelines and did not pass Alberta’s rainbow trout acute toxicity test. According to the government, pyrene “was present at twice the chronic guideline for aquatic life.”  The acute toxicity in the rainbow trout test is “most likely” caused by the naphthenic acid concentration.

Suncor spilled toxic water for three days at the same site in 2011, but the leak wasn’t made public until the second incident took place in late March. It is unclear whether any tests were done after the 2011 spill, and Suncor was never charged or punished for the leak, which likely contravened Alberta and/or federal legislation.