Exxon’s Arkansas Tar Sands Spill: The Tar Sands Name Game

By Anthony Swift | Natural Resources Defense Council

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Read this blog post on the originating site

As the American public becomes acquainted with images of tar sands flowing across lawns, driveways and streets of an Arkansas suburb near Little Rock (for video of the spill go here), Exxon is now making the claim that the crude spilled from its ruptured Pegasus pipeline isn’t technically tar sands. This attempt is reminiscent of the knots that Enbridge tied itself into to deny that the million gallons of tar sands it spilled into the Kalamazoo River weren’t actually tar sands. During that spill Kari Lydersen, a former Washington Post reporter covering the spill for OnEarth Magazine, helped break Enbridge CEO’s about-face,  when after denying that his company had spilled ‘tar sands” for two weeks, told the press:

“No, I haven’t said it’s not tar sand oil. What I indicated is that it was not what we have traditionally referred to as tar sands oil. … If it is part of the same geological formation, then I bow to that expert opinion. I’m not saying, ‘No, it’s not oil sands crude.’ It’s just not traditionally defined as that and viewed as that.” Enbridge CEO Patrick Daniel, August 12th, 2010

My colleague Josh Mogerman wrote in detail about Enbridge’s denial – and it seems that Exxon is borrowing Enbridge’s playbook in this case. Exxon has identified the crude spilled in Mayflower, Arkansas as Wabasca Heavy diluted bitumen. Now the company is making the case that the crude it spilled is not technically ‘tar sands.’ However, Exxon’s argument doesn’t stand close scrutiny. Let’s look at the key facts.

1. Wabasca Heavy diluted bitumen is produced in Alberta’s Athabasca tar sands region. I’ve included a map showing the Wabasca formation as oil sands rather than heavy oil. The map is from the Canadian Centre of Information – I would link to it but I took it from The Oil Sands Developers Group this morning and the Oil Sands Map section seems to have crashed since then.

2. Wabasca Heavy Diluted Bitumen is considered by the Alberta Government as tar sands.  In the Alberta Oil Sands Industry’s (AOSID) Spring 2012 Quarterly Update, the Alberta government makes the following characterizations of its tar sands resources:

“There are three major bitumen (or oil sands) deposits in Alberta. The largest is the Athabasca deposit, located in the province’s northeast in the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo. The main population centre of the Athabasca deposit is the City of Fort McMurray. The second-largest oil sands deposit is referred to as Cold Lake, just south of Athabasca, with the main population centre the City of Cold Lake. The smallest oil sands deposit is known as Peace River, which is located in northwest central Alberta. A fourth deposit called Wabasca links to the Athabasca and is generally lumped in with that area.” (pg. 2)

And in its glossary, it defines “oil sands” as:

Bitumen-soaked sand, located in four geographic regions of Alberta: Athabasca, Wabasca, Cold Lake and Peace River. The Athabasca deposit is the largest encompassing more than 42,340 square kilometres. Total deposits of bitumen in Alberta are estimated at 1.7 trillion to 2.5 trillion barrels. (pg. 15)

3. Industry considers Wabasca Heavy diluted bitumen as tar sands. The Canadian oil industry’s crude quality clearinghouse Crudemoniter.ca doesn’t list Wabasca Heavy as a heavy conventional crude but as a diluted bitumen – the category for tar sands. In a recent report, the Canadian Energy Pipeline Association (CEPA) referred to Wabasca as “oil sands.”

So given that:

  1. Wabasca Heavy is a diluted bitumen with the physical properties of tar sands;
  2. Wabasca Heavy is produced in the Athabasca tar sands region of Alberta
  3. Wabasca Heavy is considered by both the Alberta government and industry as tar sands.

How does Exxon argue Wabasca heavy is not in fact tar sands? Their argument seems to be based entirely on how Wabasca heavy is produced. Tar sands near the surface is essentially strip mined. When it isn’t nearly the surface, most companies heat water and flood the underground tar sands formations with steam in order to reduce the viscosity of (i.e. melt) the bitumen so it can be recovered from wells in a process called Steam Assisted Gravity Drainage (SAGD).

Exxon makes the point that Wabasca Heavy bitumen isn’t produced by either mining or SAGD, but a process called Solvent Assisted Production (SAP). In solvent assisted production you see, rather than flooding the underground formation with steam to reduce the viscosity of the tar sands bitumen, you flood the formation with a combination of water and polymer solvents to reduce the bitumen’s viscosity. And if you use water and polymer solvents instead of steam, rather than producing tar sands bitumen you get tar sands bitumen.

This transformative process appears to be based on the logic that flooding a reservoir with steam is unconventional while flooding it with water and polymer solvents is conventional. It’s also likely that the logic of Exxon’s argument is predicated on folks not following it quite this far. Cenovus itself, the company using SAP to produce tar sands, describes it as a process used hand-in-hand with typical SAGD methods to produce tar sands.

Coal is coal whether you use pick ax or shovel. Diluted bitumen tar sands is diluted bitumen tar sands whether you produce it using polymer solvents or steam. And that what was flowing down driveway in Mayflower, Arkansas this weekend.

Because ‘Bitumen is not Oil,’ Pipelines Carrying Tar Sands Crude Don’t Pay into US Oil Spill Fund

By CAROL LINNITT | DeSmog Canada

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

As Think Progress has just reported, a bizarre technicality allowed Exxon Mobil to avoid paying into the federal oil spill fund responsible for cleanup after the company’s Pegasus pipeline released 12,000 barrels of tar sands oil and water into the town of Mayflower, Arkansas.

According to a thirty-year-old law in the US, diluted bitumen coming from the Alberta tar sands is not classified as oil, meaning pipeline operators planning to transport the corrosive substance across the US – with proposed pipelines like the Keystone XL – are exempt from paying into the federal Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund.

News that Exxon was spared from contributing the 8-cents-per-barrel fee to the clean-up fund added insult to injury this week as cleanup crews discovered oil-soaked ducks covered in “low-quality Wabasca Heavy Crude from Alberta.” Yesterday officials said 10 live ducks were found covered in oil, as well as a number of oiled ducks already deceased.

Continue reading article and view photographs on originating site

Lobbyist appointed as Alberta’s new top energy regulator

By ANDREW NIKIFORUK | THE TYEE

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Read this blog post on the originating site

The Alberta government has appointed the founding president of the Canada’s most powerful oil and gas group as well as an active energy lobbyist to head its new energy regulator.

Gerald Protti, a long-time senior executive for Encana from 1995 and 2009, served as the inaugural president of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP).

He is also registered as an active lobbyist for the Energy Policy Institute of Canada.

That lobby group, which disgraced senior Harper advisor Bruce Carson helped to set up (Carson served as vice chair), says on its website that it wants to make energy regulations more industry friendly: “Help design regulatory processes that aid, rather than impede, responsible energy development.”

(Carson, the 66-year-old former aide to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, was the architect of Tories’ oil sands public relations strategy and will go to trial next summer on influence-peddling charges. He has a history of fraud convictions.)

The Redford government appointed Protti, who also has close ties to the Harper government, as industry advisor to the Alberta government on its Regulatory Enhancement Project.

That project is still designing a one-stop shop regulatory body for oil and gas that Protti now heads.

Mike Hudema of Greenpeace Canada was at a loss for words to describe the appointment.

“You’d think the Alberta government would want to gain credibility with an appointee that had a strong record of public service. But this move does nothing for the province’s credibility. It’s pure conflict of interest.”

Added Hudema: “By handing the fox the keys to the hen house, the Redford government has made a mockery of their claims to being a tough regulator. No one outside of Alberta is going to take the founder of the oil industry’s main lobby group seriously as an environmental regulator. It may be a cause for joy in corporate boardrooms, but it is our communities and our environment that will pay the price of this revolving door between government and industry.”

Edmonton-based lawyer Keith Wilson and many other critics have described new legislation(Bill 2) creating Alberta’s new energy regulator as an unfettered disaster for citizens who live near energy projects in rural Alberta.

According to Wilson, Bill 2 effectively takes away the rights landowners now have to contest and oppose projects not in the community interest. But the new regulator “now gets complete unfettered discretion in deciding whether landowners get any notice or can have any right to a hearing or other participation in the process. There is nothing in Bill 2 that creates any rights for landowners.”

Protti’s appointment may create a political storm in the province.

When then-Premier Ralph Klein tried to appoint another energy insider, former Amoco executive Sherrold Moore, as head of the Alberta Energy and Utilities Board (now the Energy Resources Conservation Board) in 1998, public outrage forced the government to back down.

It finally appointed Neil McCrank, senior civil servant and lawyer, instead.

The appointment is not without precedent. B.C.’s oil and gas regulator, the Oil and Gas Commission, was actually set up by a former oil and gas lobbyist too.

Tyee contributing editor Andrew Nikiforuk is both an Alberta landowner and a reporter.

Tar sands spill in Arkansas is a warning of the risks of tar sands pipelines

By Anthony Swift | Natural Resources Defense Council

Monday, April 01, 2013

Read this blog post on the originating site

On Friday afternoon, Exxon’s Pegasus pipeline ruptured, spilling between 80,000 and 420,000 gallons of tar sands diluted bitumen in a suburban neighborhood in Mayflower, Arkansas. In 2010, a similar tar sands diluted bitumen spill into Michigan’s Kalamazoo River watershed demonstrated that diluted bitumen spills were significantly more challenging to clean up and damaging to the environment, particularly water bodies, than conventional crude. Moreover, tar sands diluted bitumen pipelines typically operate at significantly higher temperatures than conventional crude pipelines, increasing their risk of rupture due to external corrosion and other factors. While details regarding the cause of the rupture and the magnitude of the spill are still coming in, the Mayflower tar sands spill is yet another demonstration of the risks that tar sands pipelines pose to the communities and sensitive water resources they cross. At about a tenth of the full capacity of the Keystone XL tar sands pipelines, the 90,000 bpd Pegasus pipeline rupture offers us a small sample of the risk that tar sands pipelines pose to American communities.

Tar sands diluted bitumen is substantially different from the conventional crude historically moved on the U.S. pipeline system. It is a combination of heavier than water bitumen tar sands and light, toxic natural gas liquids or other petrochemical diluents. Together, this mix is called diluted bitumen, a substance that is fifty to seventy times thicker than conventional crudes like West Texas Intermediate (North America’s benchmark crude) and moves at higher pipeline temperatures. High temperature pipelines have been demonstrated to be at a substantially higher risk of rupture due to external corrosion – a study of a small network of high temperature pipelines in California showed they were 23 times as likely to rupture due to external corrosion than conventional pipelines.

The Pegasus tar sands pipeline rupture adds to growing evidence that tar sands poses additional risks to our nation’s pipelines and communities. Canadian diluted bitumen tar sands was first moved on the U.S. pipeline system in the late nineties – primarily on pipelines in the northern Midwest. While U.S. regulators don’t differentiate between tar sands pipelines and conventional crude pipelines, States with pipelines that have moved the largest volumes of tar sands diluted bitumen for the longest period of time – North Dakota, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Michigan – have spilled 3.6 times as much crude per pipeline mile as the national average. And until late last year, Exxon’s 90,000 bpd Pegasus pipeline was the only pipeline to move Canadian diluted from the Midwest to the Gulf Coast.

Spill responders in Arkansas are making every effort to keep the tar sands out of nearby Lake Conway, an important drinking water source and recreational area. It is important that they do, because nearly three years after the tar sands spill in Kalamazoo, Michigan, neither industry nor regulators have developed effective methods to contain tar sands spills in waterbodies. When diluted bitumen spills, the light natural gas liquid diluents evaporate, leaving the heavier that water bitumen to sink into the waterbody. Once it is under the water’s surface, conventional spill response methods are largely ineffective. After nearly three years and a billion dollars of cleanup activities in Kalamazoo, almost 40 miles of that river and a nearby lake are still contaminated.

The Mayflower tar sands spill is another warning of the potential costs of the tar sands industry’s reckless expansion plans. Nearly three years after the Kalamazoo river spill and tar sands pipeline companies are pushing ahead with major expansion plans without doing due diligence of the risks associated with tar sands diluted bitumen transport on pipelines.

Enbridge’s Nose Grows a lot Longer

By National Wildlife Federation

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Read this blog post on the originating site

In a recent hearing to determine the fate of the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline project, Enbridge told regulators, decision makers and the public that tar sands oil floats in water. This is according to an industry backed study conducted in a lab.

The large problem for Enbridge is that they can’t hide from the real-life facts. Enbridge has the best (and worst) “study” right here in the Kalamazoo River, where they spilled around a million gallons of tar sands crude into Michigan waters. This spill has proven the exact opposite: tar sands oil sinks in fresh water!

This is not a little white lie: the fact that tar sands oil sinks in water is one of the biggest problems facing the industry and pipeline operators, proving that any spill of any kind into water is devastating, toxic andimpossible to clean-up. The hundreds of acres of submerged oil in the Kalamazoo River — that Enbridge can’t clean up — is case and point!

Steep Learning Curve for Tar Sands Spills

Michigan journalist Fritz Klug wrote about this very point almost two years ago:

“At minimum, we’re writing a chapter in the oil spill cleanup book on how to identify submerged oil,” [EPA incident commander Ralph] Dollhopf said. “We’re writing chapters on how it behaves once it does spill (and) how to recover it.”

What the EPA didn’t expect at the beginning of the spill last July was how much time they would spend extracting the heavier oil submerged in the bottom of the Kalamazoo River.

“In a situation where we don’t have to be concerned with submerged oil, then we clean up the oil on the surface and be done,” Dollhopf said.

This past fall, the EPA issued Enbridge another work order to address the hundreds of acres of submerged oil, but Enbridge is dismissing that order because they have no idea how to remove the oil from the bottom of the river without causing extreme habitat destruction.

When a tar sands pipeline spill occurs, all readily available equipment used to clean-up oil will only address oil floating on the surface of water. So, for any pipeline operator to say they know how to properly clean up tar sands crude — this is a flat out lie.

Again, this point is extremely important considering the flood of tar sands pipeline projects hitting the U.S.

Lawmakers in the Dark

Taking this a step further, the lack of acknowledgment by our decision makers and congressional members is a little shocking. Our leaders should be demanding that regulators and pipeline operators make immediate changes to spill response plans to address this very issue, and no tar sands pipelines should be expanded or constructed until issues like this are fully addressed. This should have been an outcry immediately following Enbridge’s spill — especially considering tar sands crude is already running through many pipelines that travel in and around the Great Lakes, which are the freshwater drinking source for millions or people and habitat for countless wildlife.

In fact, many members of Congress are ignoring the facts and trying to streamline massive tar sands pipeline projects, like Keystone XL, which will expose millions to the risk of spills and drive development in Canada’s tar sands region, one of the biggest threats to our global climate.

We are allowing Enbridge to cover up the facts with propaganda, which will continue to allow the industry to expand plans for transporting tar sands oil through some of the most sensitive areas in the world.

Fact-checking Canada’s record on climate change and the oilsands

By Clare Demerse | Pembina Institute

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Read this blog post on the originating site

With consideration of the Keystone XL pipeline proposal heading into the home stretch, a parade of Canadian politicians have been making the trek to the U.S. to try to convince the Obama Administration of the pipeline’s merits.

The good news is that the recent visitors — from Premiers Redford and Wall to federal Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver — now acknowledge that Canada’s environmental record is crucial to the upcoming U.S. decision.

The bad news is that there are some gaping holes in that record.

Minister Oliver has called for pipeline decisions to be “based on science and facts, not conjecture, hyperbole or ideology.” In that spirit, surely it’s fair to put some of the assertions in Minister Oliver’s recent Chicago speech under the microscope.

“Current projections show that Canada is halfway to meeting” its 2020 greenhouse gas emissions target.

If you read that statement to mean that we’re “halfway there” right now, I have bad news for you. Environment Canada estimates that Canada will only be “halfway” to meeting its 2020 target in 2020 — meaning that we’re on track to miss the 2020 target by 113 million tonnes, or double the current emissions of British Columbia.

To date, the federal government has not published any plan or proposal to close that gap, and the trend line that Minister Oliver alludes to with his “halfway” assessment already factors in the effects of all existing federal and provincial climate policies.

“Total greenhouse gas emissions from oilsands production represent 0.1 per cent, or one one-thousandth, of global emissions.”

No argument with the numbers themselves, but Joe Oliver isn’t in charge of climate change for the world; he’s the minister of Canada’s natural resources. And in the Canadian context, the oilsands play a starring role as the single fastest-growing source of greenhouse gas pollution in this country.

Indeed, the projected growth from the oilsands sector alone from 2005 to 2020 is large enough to cancel out all other emission reductions taking place elsewhere in the Canadian economy over the same period. More than anything else, the oilsands explain why Canada is projected to miss its 2020 target by such a large margin.

“Once the federal regulations are in place, Canada will be one of a very few oil producers in the world with national binding regulations on its oil and gas sector.”

As Minister Oliver’s statement hints, the reality is that that there are currently no federal constraints of any kind on greenhouse gas pollution from Canada’s oil and gas sector. The government has proposed a variety of approaches to controlling Canada’s emissions since first taking power seven years ago, and made a specific commitment to a sectoral regulation for oil and gas in 2011, but there’s still nothing on the books. In other words, they’ve made their new year’s resolution (again), but they haven’t yet headed out the door to the gym.

If and when Canada does get a regulation into place, it will join numerous oil and gas producing jurisdictions that have already taken steps to tackle their emissions. We recently published a reportlisting some of those policies, which include carbon taxes in Norway and Australia and cap-and-trade systems in the European Union and California (not to mention carbon pricing in B.C. and Alberta).

Several of those policies are not specific to the oil and gas sector; instead, many of these jurisdictions have adopted economy-wide carbon pricing that includes oil and gas emissions. That kind of broad-based pollution pricing is economically efficient, flexible, and frankly the preferred policy option for many oil and gas companies. Unfortunately, it’s an approach that the Harper government continues to attack on a daily basis as a “job-killing” “tax on everything” — but that kind of rhetoric was conspicuously absent from Minister Oliver’s U.S. outreach.

“Canada’s oilsands are subject to some of the most stringent environmental regulations and monitoring in the world.”

That’s a bold claim from a government that spent much of the past year revising many of Canada’s most important environmental laws to make it easier for resource development to go ahead. The federal government has partnered with the Government of Alberta on a new approach to environmental monitoring that shows promise; unfortunately, budget wrangling and delay means that the new system is still not up and running.

We’ll stop there for now, although the federal government has provided plenty more material that merits a closer look — including its very rosy assessment of Canada’s coal regulations or the assertion that the Keystone XL project would be a huge job creator when the State Department’s recently-releasedsupplemental environmental impact statement found that operating the multi-billion dollar Keystone XL pipeline would create a total of 35 permanent jobs.

A year ago, the federal government’s emphasis was on faster project approvals, more oilsands development, and pipelines in all directions. It’s good news that scrutiny from the sector’s major customer has reminded our political leaders that environmental protection needs to be just as much of a priority.

The government’s rhetoric has already changed in response, but even the best speechwriters can’t make a compelling case when there’s little good material to work with.

Environment Minister Peter Kent said last week that the release of the long-promised oil and gas sector regulations is drawing near. It’s a crucial decision for Canada’s approach to climate change. And if Ottawa rises to the challenge by adopting tough rules, it’s also a high-profile opportunity for the government to write itself a better script.

The children: Why a generation is putting itself on the line for the climate

By Wen Stephenson | Grist

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

I recently picked up a book that’s been sitting in my must-read pile for a long time: David Halberstam’s The Children, a remarkable account of the African-American students who began the momentous lunch-counter sit-ins in Nashville in February 1960 and went on to risk their lives as Freedom Riders and as movement leaders in Birmingham and Selma. Half a century on, it can be easy to forget that citizens of this country took such risks, and made such sacrifices, in order to gain basic human rights.

Still, I thought I knew the story. So I was startled to find myself pierced, on the very first page, by Halberstam’s description of one young woman’s inner struggle:

Years later, though she could recall almost every physical detail of what it had been like to sit there in that course on English literature, Diane Nash could remember nothing of what Professor Robert Hayden had said. What she remembered instead was her fear. A large clock on the wall had clicked slowly and loudly; each minute which was subtracted put her nearer to harm’s way. … It was always the last class that she attended on the days that she and her colleagues assembled before they went downtown and challenged the age-old segregation laws at the lunch counters in Nashville’s downtown shopping center.

Halberstam then describes Diane Nash’s memory of the night before the first sit-in, on Feb. 13, 1960:

On that evening, she had sat alone in her room at Fisk University. Suddenly she was hit with an overpowering attack of nerves. What had she gotten herself into? she wondered. … She, Diane Nash, a coward of the first order in her own mind, a person absolutely afraid not just of violence but of going to jail, was going to join a small group of black children and ministers and take on the most important and resourceful people in a big, very white, very Southern city….

It was a joke, she thought, it will never happen. We are a bunch of children. We’re nice children, bright and idealistic, but we are children and we are weak.

I think I know why those words pierced me the way they did. Over the past year and a half, I’ve gotten acquainted, and at times worked closely, with a group of student climate activists in the Boston area.

The Dirt :: March 12, 2013

QUOTE OF THE WEEK

“A president who has repeatedly identified climate change as one of humanity’s most pressing dangers cannot in good conscience approve a project that — even by the State Department’s most cautious calculations — can only add to the problem.”

~ the New York Times editorial board, writing about the Keystone XL pipeline

In this issue:

  • New York Times says no to Keystone XL
  • Debunking Canadian propaganda about the virtues of bitumen
  • Tar sands truth in Europe
  • Mothers and Methodists hold funeral at TransCanada office

The Keystone XL pipeline proposal was dealt yet another blow this week when the world’s most influential newspaper decried the project as dangerous and not in keeping with U.S. President Barack Obama’s commitment to doing whatever he can to limit the impacts of climate change.

“A president who has repeatedly identified climate change as one of humanity’s most pressing dangers cannot in good conscience approve a project that — even by the State Department’s most cautious calculations — can only add to the problem,” wrote the New York Timeseditorial board on Sunday. “Saying no to the pipeline will not stop Canada from developing the tar sands, but it will force the construction of new pipelines through Canada itself. And that will require Canadians to play a larger role in deciding whether a massive expansion of tar sands development is prudent. At the very least, saying no to the Keystone XL will slow down plans to triple tar sands production from just under two million barrels a day now to six million barrels a day by 2030.”

The Times editorial was accompanied by a column from well-known columnist and author Thomas Friedman. In “No to Keystone. Yes to Crazy.”, Friedman wrote that he hopes President Obama turns down TransCanada’s proposal to build the Keystone XL pipeline across the Midwest so the “dirtiest crude” from Alberta’s tar sands can be exported to overseas markets.

Friedman added that if the president does approve the pipeline, “I hope that Bill McKibben and his 350.org coalition go crazy. I’m talking chain-themselves-to-the-White-House-fence-stop-traffic-at-the-Capitol kind of crazy, because I think if we all make enough noise about this, we might be able to trade a lousy Keystone pipeline for some really good systemic responses to climate change.”

The New York Times position comes as  more analysis of the State Department’s draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) finds that it debunks many of the arguments used by the pipeline’s supporters to justify the need for the Keystone XL pipeline. Champions of Keystone XL argue that it is essential to delivering jobs, oil and energy security, but the SEIS concluded that “not building the pipeline would have almost no impact on jobs; on US oil supply; on heavy oil supply for Gulf Coast refineries; or even on the amount of oil sands extracted in Alberta.”

The draft SEIS found that Keystone XL would only create 35 permanent jobs in the U.S. and have “negligible socioeconomic impact.” What about energy security? According to the draft SEIS, “the increase in U.S. production of crude oil and the reduced U.S. demand for transportation fuels will likely reduce the demand for total U.S. crude oil imports.” Which means that if Keystone XL is denied, it “would not substantially influence the … overall volume of crude oil transported to the United States or refined in the United States.” Besides, if Keystone XL is built, the oil it ferries to the Gulf Coast will be exported overseas, not kept in America to increase so-called “energy security.”

The biggest criticism of the draft SEIS, however, is that the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline would have no measurable climate change impacts, because tar sands expansion would continue anyways, as producers found other ways to transport their dirty crude to market. This framing, says Pat Parenteau, an environmental law professor at Vermont Law School, is “not in keeping with the letter or the spirit” of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).

According to Inside Climate News, the Environmental Protection Agency, which plays an important role in rating the performance of other agencies in performing environmental assessments under NEPA, has repeatedly urged the State Department to focus on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and how to offset them if Keystone were to get the green light.

“The fundamental question for State should have been, will this pipeline lead to an increase in greenhouse gas emissions?” said Danielle Droitsch, an environmental lawyer and director of the Canada project at the Natural Resources Defense Council, a leading pipeline opponent. “We don’t have to go through this circular, roundabout argument. It’s just a really, really nice way to escape doing that analysis.”

“It stands the whole concept of examining the consequences of your actions on its head, it really does,” Parenteau told Inside Climate News. “There is going to be litigation if this is approved.”

Read more on the climate impacts of the Keystone XL pipeline at Inside Climate News.

In the latest attempt to greenwash the tar sands, Canada’s Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver has been roaming the United States trying to convince American politicians and thought leaders that Alberta’s dirty crude is a clean, responsible, sustainable – even “green” – source of energy, and that Canada’s environmental record and climate change policy are as good as it gets.

“The oil sands are a greener alternative than some other sources from around the world,” Oliver said in news conferenceafter delivering a speech touting the merits of the Keystone XL pipeline to the Chicago Council on Global Affairs. “I’m here to give you the unvarnished goods – and to let you make up your own mind about the merits of Canadian oil for America. Canada is the environmentally responsible choice for the U.S. to meet its energy needs in oil for years to come.”

If Oliver’s comments about Canada’s environmental record have left you confused, it’s worth reading some responses to his nonsense. In anop-ed in the Globe and Mail, Tzeporah Berman invoked George Orwell in an attempt to set the record straight. “At a time when climate scientists are urgently telling us to significantly scale back the burning of fossil fuels, having a minister promote exactly the opposite really does feel like being told that two plus two equals five.”

Berman, author of This Crazy Time and co-founder of ForestEthics, pointed out that every independent study, including one from the U.S. Department of Energy, has found that the oil sands are one of the world’s dirtiest forms of oil, producing three times more greenhouse gas emissions per barrel produced, and 22 per cent more than conventional oil when their full life cycle of emissions, including burning them in a vehicle, is included.

She also noted that Oliver failed to mention that even his government’s own reports from Environment Canada have said that Canada will not meet its climate-pollution targets because of oil sands expansion. In fact, climate pollution from the oil sands has doubled in the last decade and is predicted to double again in the next decade if all the new development is allowed to go ahead. The truth is, wrote Berman, “we still have no federal rules to reduce climate pollution from the oil sands.”

Berman wasn’t the only one taking Mr. Oliver to task. Andrew Nikiforuk, author of Tar Sands and The Energy of Slaves, also pointed out the “extraordinary and popular delusions” being purveyed by Oliver and other Canadian politicians. Invoking the likes of Alexander Pope and Charles Mackay, Nikiforuk decried Canada’s “slavish [tar sands] promoters for omit[ing] the troubling facts as hawkers do. They said nothing, for example, about bitumen’s poor quality, unending carbon liabilities, soaring costs and appalling energy returns. They also lied about Canada’s pathetic environmental record.”

Not to be outdone, Opposition Leader Thomas Mulcair made a whirlwind tour to Washington, D.C., telling anyone who cares to listen (and many who don’t) that the Canadian government is “playing people for fools” by claiming that its environmental record is world class and that it cares about climate change.

“In the U.S. people know how to read,” he told the National Post. “They know that Canada is the only country that has withdrawn from Kyoto. They know that the Conservatives can’t possibly meet their Copenhagen targets (on greenhouse gas emissions) precisely because of the oilsands. They have to stop playing people for fools.”

That pretty much puts to rest the validity of Oliver’s claims. Let’s hope that Americans can, indeed, see through the federal government’s delusional self-promotion.

Tar sands truth in Europe

Europe may be far across the sea, but it’s not so far that Canada’s relentless tar sands promoters are safe from those who oppose the dirty stuff. Gordon Campbell, Canadian High Commissioner to the UK, was greeted with protests at Oxford University recently, where he delivered a seminar entitled “New World, New Mind”.

Organized by Tar-Free Oxford, local community members held a banner that read “Keep Tar Sands out of Europe” as Campbell arrived to deliver a seminar at the college. “Canada is promoting tar sands oil as a clean and ethical energy source, when we know that the exact opposite is the case,” said Suzanne Dhaliwal, from the UK Tar Sands Network. “Entire ecosystems are being destroyed and communities are being devastated in order to extract this highly polluting source of oil.”

Organizers are concerned about Canada’s relentless lobbying against a key piece of EU climate policy, the Fuel Quality Directive, which aims to reduce imports of highly polluting fuels such as tar sands and synthetic oil from coal into Europe.

In Berlin, Dene Nation Chief Bill Erasmus disrupted an event at the Canadian embassy linked to a large tourism expo to draw attention to Canada’s poor tars sands development record. Tourism officials from Alberta and other parts of Canada were in Berlin promoting the natural beauty of Alberta and B.C.

Erasmus delivered a letter to tourism officials explaining his people’s concerns about the tar sands. “We are not against economic development in Canada or Alberta, but tar sands extraction is polluting our rivers, destroying our natural resources and thus the economic basis of our survival – and yours. This is a model of economic development, tied to boom and bust cycles, which will not bring lasting prosperity to our country. What we need is a sustainable economic model for a diversified economy that does not depend on exporting fossil fuels.

“The Canadian government is heavily lobbying European countries to derail European climate change efforts, such as the Fuel Quality Directive aimed at reducing emissions from imported transport fuels. This is wrong; Canada is interfering in the European legislative process and needs to accept the proposed criteria. Environment and climate are our joint responsibility and we need to protect them. For us, for our children and for the tourists we want to come to our home.”

A large graphic was projected on the building that houses the Canadian Embassy in Berlin (see photo at the top of this post). “You can look away,” it read. “Tourists won’t. Stand up against the tar sands.”

STOPPING DIRTY PIPELINE EXPANSION

Mothers and Methodists hold funeral at TransCanada office

CLEANING UP DIRTY OIL

Debunking Canadian propaganda about the virtues of bitumen

FEATURE DIRT

New York Times says no to Keystone XL

The State Department review shows Keystone XL tar sands pipeline is not in our national interest

By Susan Casey-Lefkowitz | Natural Resources Defense Council

Monday, March 11, 2013

A deeper dive into the State Department draft environmental review shows that the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline is not needed. The energy security argument for the pipeline, always dubious, has evaporated to the point where even the State Department cannot find a reason to build it. The draft also confirms that the Keystone XL is not an economic recovery plan, since it will create only 35 permanent jobs and 3,900 construction jobs. It won’t help consumers since far from bringing new oil to the US, it is meant to relieve a glut and raise oil prices. Instead the State Department found that the project will benefit oil companies by giving them access to the higher oil prices in overseas markets, making new tar sands projects more worth their while. Yet, it is Americans who carry the risks of tar sands oil spills in our rivers and aquifers and worsening climate change. What the State Department got dead wrong is their mistaken assumption that Keystone XL would not drive tar sands expansion. The review used this assumption to get out of any meaningful consideration of the climate pollution from tar sands expansion, and in this time of worsening climate change that is not acceptable. Rejection of Keystone XL is an easy and necessary choice for America. As European Climate Commissioner Connie Hedegaard said, rejection of Keystone XL would send a strong message internationally that the US is serious about fighting climate change.

Let’s take a closer look at the draft environmental review:

Keystone XL’s 35 permanent jobs and 3,900 construction jobs are not an economic recovery plan

The State Department review once again shows how TransCanada, the American Petroleum Institute and other proponents of the pipeline have vastly overstated the number of jobs that will be created by Keystone XL. The State Department, based on TransCanada’s own numbers, shows that at the most 3,900 construction jobs will be created in building the pipeline with only 10% of the total workforce hired locally. Only 35 permanent jobs will be created by the pipeline. What is more, the State Department ignores the potentially negative impacts of pipeline spills, spills into freshwater supplies or increases in climate and other pollution on employment and the economy. Farming, ranching, and tourism are major sources of employment along the Keystone XL pipeline’s proposed route – approximately 571,000 workers are directly employed in the agricultural sector in the states along the Keystone XL corridor. Water contamination resulting from a Keystone XL spill, or the cumulative impact of spills over the lifetime of the pipeline, would have significant economic costs.

We can do better. As a result of our clean energy industry’s rapid growth and effective state and federal policies, clean energy projects and programs currently in progress are creating thousands of jobs in communities across the country without the risk.  And many more shovel ready projects could be brought online if our policymakers are willing to send clear market signals and level the playing field for clean energy options to move forward.

Keystone XL’s path to export means less economic and energy security for the US, not more

Continue reading on blog’s originating site

On the wrong track: Rail is not an alternative to the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline

By Anthony Swift | Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC)

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Read this blog post on the originating site

In its recently released draft environmental review of the Keystone XL pipeline that would bring tar sands from Canada to the Gulf Coast for export, the State Department attempts to make the case that rail could be a viable alternative. The State Department argued that Keystone XL would have little effect on tar sands production because rail could provide an equally feasible and economic transportation option for tar sands. This is a critical element of the draft environmental review because while State determined that tar sands is dirtier than conventional oil, it concludes that Keystone XL would have little impact on the expansion of tar sands and therefore policymakers and the public needn’t consider the impacts of that expansion. However, State’s assumptions are on the wrong track. The Keystone XL tar sands pipeline will drive tar sands expansion. Expansion depends on tar sands being able to reach the high prices of overseas markets. But pipelines to the east and west are stalled and rail – as we will show here – is not an economically viable alternative to Keystone XL. And without Keystone XL, financial analysts are already saying that the tar sands industry’s expansion plan will go off the rails.

In its most recent environmental review, the State Department is repeating its argument that the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline will have limited impact on greenhouse gas emissions because rail transport is an economically feasible alternative. State made several flawed assumptions in its environmental review, including 1) an unrealistically low cost for transporting tar sands by rail from Alberta to Texas, 2) an inaccurate estimate of tar sands production costs and 3) an unrealistic assumption that tar sands production costs will not increase with rising labor, material and energy prices.  In its analysis, State relies on statistics that pertain to rail transport of shale oil from North Dakota but that do not apply to Alberta’s tar sands. Given the unfeasibility of transporting large quantities of tar sands by rail and the massive opposition to tar sands pipelines to the East and West coast of Canada, Keystone XL is the lynchpin for significant expansion of the tar sands – and industry analysts agree. Tar sands is expensive to extract and process – with breakeven prices approaching $100 per barrel – and cheap transportation is required to make new projects profitable. Without Keystone XL and the cheap transportation it provides, the tar sands industry will not reach its goal of tripling production by 2030 and the significant climate emissions that come with it.

Oil Sands Mining Uses Up Almost as Much Energy as It Produces

By Rachel Nuwer | InsideClimate News

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

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The average “energy returned on investment,” or EROI, for conventional oil is roughly 25:1. In other words, 25 units of oil-based energy are obtained for every one unit of other energy that is invested to extract it.
But tar sands oil is in a category all its own.

Tar sands retrieved by surface mining has an EROI of only about 5:1, according to research released Tuesday. Tar sands retrieved from deeper beneath the earth, through steam injection, fares even worse, with a maximum average ratio of just 2.9 to 1. That means one unit of natural gas is needed to create less than three units of oil-based energy.
“They have to use a lot of natural gas to upgrade this heavy, sticky, gooky almost tar-like stuff to make it fluid enough to use,” said Charles Hall, a professor at the State University of New York’s College of Environmental Science and Forestry. Hydrogen from gas heats the tar sands so the viscous form of petroleum it contains, known as bitumen, can be liquefied and pumped out of the ground. In this way, Hall said, gas helps turn tar sands “into something a bit closer to what we call oil.”

With most of the world’s highest quality resources already exhausted, companies are turning to formerly undesirable alternatives such as tar sands oil, which come with higher energetic price tags yet lower returns.
“We built our nation, economy and civilization on cheap energy—that’s where this incredible growth of the U.S. economy has come from,” said Hall, who coined the term EROI in 1979. “But that characteristic high energy return on investment fuel from much of the last century is no longer here.”

The latest EROI values for tar sands were calculated by David Hughes, a fellow at the Post Carbon Institute, a non-profit devoted to issues such as climate change and energy scarcity, based in Santa Rosa, Calif. The institute released Hughes’ findings on Tuesday.
Hughes’ figures include the energy it takes to mine bitumen as well as to upgrade it to synthetic oil that can be put into a refinery. It also includes the liquefied natural gas used to turn it into dilbit (diluted bitumen) so it can flow through pipelines.

Hall, who wasn’t involved in Hughes’ study, thinks the EROI for oil sands would fall closer to 1:1 if the tar sands’ full life cycle—including transportation, refinement into higher quality products, end use efficiency and environmental costs—was taken into account.
Travis Davies, manager of media and issues at the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, disputes Hughes’ calculations. He said oil sands create 6 to 10 energy units for each energy unit used, but he did not cite a source for those figures.

Both Hughes and Hall think the new data should be factored into the debate over Canada’s tar sands reserves, which cover an area about the size of Florida. Environmentalists argue that the oil sands should be left in the ground, because they produce much more carbon than other fossil fuels. The industry, supported by the Canadian government, says the oil sands are crucial to Canada’s economy and can provide the United States with a reliable source of fuel from a friendly neighbor.
What isn’t often mentioned, Hughes said, is the energy required to extract the oil, or the rate at which it can feasibly be recovered.

“Unless we talk about all three metrics—size of the resource, net energy and rate of supply—we’re not getting the full story,” he said.

Canada’s Oil Sands Boom

The world currently burns through an estimated 88.25 million barrels of oil per day. As the supply of sweet, light crude diminishes, it is being replaced by unconventional alternatives, including tar sands.

Most unconventional energy sources have much lower efficiencies than conventional gas and oil, which operate at a combined energy-returned-on-investment ratio of about 18:1. Shale gas, for example, performs at about 6.5:1 to 7.6:1—a bit better than the 2.9:1 to 5.1 for tar sands oil. Corn ethanol, with an EROI of about 1.3:1, sits at the bottom of the barrel for investment pay off.

“If you accept the fact that fossil fuels are finite—and I think most people would—then using a lot more fossil fuels for recovering energy as opposed to doing actual work basically uses them up quicker with no net payback in terms of useful work,” Hughes said. “It’s an issue of diminishing returns.”

Canada is touted as having the third largest oil reserves in the world. But its supply of conventional oil is shrinking, and oil sands extraction has been growing fast in the past decade, from about 700,000 barrels per day in 2000 to 1.7 million today.

Hughes based his calculations on the 25.6 billion barrels of Canadian tar sands oil that are currently under active development. What concerns him more is the EROI of the estimated 143 billion additional barrels of oil sands that are sitting under Alberta’s boreal forests, especially since only 8 percent of that oil is accessible via surface mining.

“Those EROI numbers are going to go down as we move away from the highest quality to the lesser quality parts of the resource,” Hughes said. “I’d expect that downward shift to probably start about now.”

When the entire life cycle of the fuels is considered—including production, transportation and burning the final product— the greenhouse gas differential between conventional oil and tar sands oil is about 20 percent, according to a 2011 study from Stanford University.

While no rigorous studies have been conducted on the association between diminishing EROI values and increased greenhouse gas emissions, Hughes thinks “it’s a pretty safe assumption to make” that they are linked.

Those emissions are only going to increase as Canada ramps up to the 5 million barrels per day already approved for extraction, said Simon Dyer, policy director for the Pembina Institute, a Canadian non-profit focused on developing sustainable energy solutions.

“The impacts today are actually irrelevant compared to the tripling of emissions that hasn’t yet expressed itself on the landscape,” Dyer said. “At a time when we need to be de-carbonizing our economy and making moves to lower our sources of carbon energy, clearly oil sands are a step in the wrong direction.”

More Than Just Dollars

Whether mining tar sands oil makes sense financially, depends on the world market price of oil—and on whether a company has already paid off its infrastructure costs or is building a new mine.

With the current price of synthetic crude oil sometimes dipping as low as $30 per barrel, a company that has paid off its infrastructure can still make a profit. For a company that’s still building, however, the market price would have to be about $100 per barrel in order to justify construction, Hughes said.

“Cost-wise, this is the most expensive oil being produced today,” Dyer said. “It’s a pretty clear indicator that our solution to energy needs is not chasing lower and lower quality fossil fuel resources that come with higher impacts.”

If oil sands oil eventually finds an easy outlet to the Gulf Coast—perhaps through the proposed Keystone XL pipeline project—the price for upgraded synthetic oil will likely rise to reflect the world market value, currently $110 per barrel.

Profitability aside, the development of Canada’s oil sands reserves will never offset declines in crude oil. At the world’s current rate of oil consumption—32.2 billion barrels per year—Canada’s tar sands oil reserves remain at a finite 168.6 billion barrels, enough to keep the world fueled for less than six years.

Alberta’s carbon tax is a bold move. Sadly, it’s not enough

News Articles Featured Opinion | Tzeporah Berman | The Globe and Mail | April 05, 2013

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This week we heard that Alberta Premier Alison Redford is considering increasing the price of carbon in Alberta by imposing a limit on tar-sands emissions and a $40-per-tonne-tax on production above that limit. Good for her. What we know from other jurisdictions is that putting a price on pollution spurs innovation, creates certainty and can provide billions of dollars for the development of needed alternatives – renewable energy, efficiency programs, electric-vehicle infrastructure and public transit. Most importantly it works to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions that are already degrading our life-support systems.

Let’s be clear: Canada’s biggest barrier to meeting its climate targets is the tar sands. In fact, despite the best efforts of Canadians across the country to take public transit and insulate their homes, pollution growth in the tar sands swamps all these gains. However, if we froze emissions from the oil sands we could get on track. Canadians should measure proposal like Redford’s “40:40” – referring to a 40 per cent cut in the carbon-emission limit and a $40-per-ton tax on production above that limit – by whether overall emissions will actually stop growing. From the information available so far, it does not look like that will happen. While the $40-per-tonne number sounds high, when you factor in the 40 per cent intensity target, the carbon price ends up more like $15 a tonne (if industry estimates of a $2-per-barrel increase are correct). In comparison, British Columbia has a carbon tax of $30 per tonne (it brings in $1.2-billion in revenue), while Norway has a tax of over $70.

The reality is that you don’t really open up many more opportunities for innovation and reduction with anything under $40 per tonne. In order to truly change the economic playing field in favour of clean energy, it needs to progress to $100 or $150 over the next decade so that big investments such as carbon capture and storage start making sense economically. Currently, they don’t.

A recent study by Adam Brandt of the Stanford University School of Earth Sciences notes that at $40 we can expect no more than one additional carbon-capture project in the oil sands, capturing 1.6 megatonnes of carbon. Climate pollution from oil sands production is projected to hit 104 megatonnes of carbon by 2020. That is twice current emissions from Norway or Bangladesh — and exceeds the combined emissions from 85 nations.

The industry is already responding with concern to the proposal. It’s too expensive. We won’t be competitive. Baloney. These are the most profitable companies on the planet, and they’re used to treating the atmosphere as their free dumping ground. They can not only afford a higher tax, but our climate security demands one.

The fact that Royal Dutch Shell already uses a ‘shadow price’ of $40 a tonne because they have been expecting carbon regulations for years and couldn’t live with uncertainty is proof of that. Look no further than Norway’s profitable and competitive industry for further proof.

We need to stop kowtowing to the oil industry and design policies that benefit people and not polluters. Ms. Redford needs to propose a carbon price that actually leads to overall emissions reductions so that the oil industry takes on its share of Canadian emissions reductions, just like everyone else does.

If what Ms. Redford is trying to do is set a more sustainable course and secure her province’s reputational capital and market access, then she is going to need to stand up to the industry and go for something closer to $100 a tonne. With that, we might have a chance of meeting our climate targets.

Would the industry complain? Of course they would: they have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo. They are making billions from destroying our atmosphere.

But their bark is worse than their bite. Companies can threaten to leave, like they always do, but the reality is that they are here because the oil is here and not someplace else. They’ll stick around, because they have to.

Tzeporah Berman, a former head of Greenpeace International’s worldwide climate campaign and a co-founder of ForestEthics, has been leading environmental campaigns in Canada and internationally for over 20 years. She is the author of This Crazy Time: Living Our Environmental Challenge.

Energy board changes pipeline complaint rules

News Articles Featured | Gloria Galloway | The Globe and Mail | April 05, 2013

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Canadians who want to tell the National Energy Board what they think about proposed pipeline projects – either in person or in writing – must now complete a 10-page application form proving they would be directly affected by the development or that they have relevant expertise.

The new rules the NEB unveiled on Friday stem from provisions in omnibus budget legislation drafted by Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government and passed into law last year. Environmental groups say they are the Conservatives’ response to the thousands of people who indicated an interest in voicing opposition to Enbridge Inc.’s proposed Northern Gateway pipeline.

The first test of the new procedure for applying to have a say in a pipeline development is being conducted in Ontario, where the NEB is assessing the environmental and economic effects of Enbridge’s plan to reverse its Line 9 to bring 300,000 barrels a day of heavy crude from Sarnia to Montreal.

The route of the pipeline roughly follows Highway 401, crossing all rivers and streams flowing into Lake Ontario. Several municipalities, including Hamilton, Mississauga, Toronto and Kingston, have written to the NEB to express concerns.

Ordinary Canadians who want to participate at the NEB hearings, or even write a letter to offer their thoughts, must first print the application form that was made available online on Friday, answer 10 pages of questions, then file it with both the NEB and Enbridge. And they must do so by April 19.

The NEB also encourages those wishing to make submissions to include résumés and references. Only after an application is approved will the board accept a letter.

“I understand it does look quite daunting,” said NEB spokeswoman Whitney Punchak, who pointed out that people need to complete only the sections of the application relating to issues they believe pertain to them.

“This is in place to make sure that it’s fair and efficient and that we really hear from those who are affected by the project,” Ms. Punchak said.

As to the two-week deadline, Ms. Punchak said the board has been working since February to alert people to the process. “Two weeks should be plenty of time to fill out the application,” she said.

But Adam Scott of the environmental activist group Environmental Defence said few Canadians are likely to be aware that the opportunity for participation in the approvals process for the Line 9 pipeline is now open, and will close in short order.

“Let’s say you found out about this Line 9 thing in May and you said, ‘Oh, this goes right through my neighbourhood, I would like to write a letter to the process that’s ongoing,’ ” said Mr. Scott. “They would send you a letter back saying, ‘Sorry, you didn’t apply during the two-week window for participation status so we can’t accept your letter.’ ”

And even those people who complete their applications on time may not be able to convince the board that they should be heard, he said, because the NEB has not spelled out what it means to be directly affected.

Keith Stewart of Greenpeace called the process Kafkaesque, saying it will be more work for the board to read the applications than simply to read the letters from people who want to offer input. “I think it’s a basic tenet of democracy that you should be allowed to get your voice heard,” Mr. Stewart said.

Green Party Leader Elizabeth May called the application process “an outrage” that violates the rules of natural justice and fairness. “Just when you think things cannot get worse under Harper, they do,” Ms. May said.

Peter Julian, the energy and natural resources critic for the New Democrats, said it is clear that the Conservatives don’t think the public should be heard on these projects. “I think it’s showing profound disrespect for Canadians to say that they don’t have a role in the process,” Mr. Julian said.

And Liberal MP Ted Hsu, who attended an NEB information session about the pipeline proposal in Kingston earlier this week, said he believes the Line 9 reversal will be a test of the new legislation and how much public input will be permitted. “So I think everybody should try to participate and see what happens.”

Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver said the NEB wants to hear from people who are impacted by the project.
“Focusing consultation on individuals directly affected by a proposal before the NEB and experts with relevant information or expertise, ensures the review is informed by the facts,” said Mr. Oliver. “There have been no changes to timelines for applying to participate in the public consultation process.”

CP oil spill in northern Ontario larger than first reported

News Articles | Nathan Vanderklippe | The Globe and Mail | April 04, 2013

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A northern Ontario spill of oil from a derailed train is 100 times larger than Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd. initially reported.

The company said Wednesday that only four barrels spilled. On Thursday, it said some oil had flowed beneath the snow and gone undetected. CP now estimates 400 barrels spilled, or 63,500 litres – a slightly greater amount than the company’s spill last week in Minnesota.

At about 7:50 Wednesday morning, 22 rail cars derailed about 10 kilometres west of White River, a small northern Ontario town. Two of those cars leaked light oil.

“The original leaking car was secured. The second car … showed no signs of the product around its base during initial assessments,” CP spokesman Ed Greenberg said.

When the leak was discovered under the snow, “CP constructed a berm and other containment and mitigation equipment is in place.”

The company said it does not believe the oil leaked beyond containment booms or into water, although testing is in place.

Asked how CP could miss such a large amount of leaked oil, Mr. Greenberg said workers initially believed the leaking had stopped at the second car.

“Appreciate the conditions that our crews are working in at a derailment site. … In the second car it was difficult to assess its condition due to its position among the derailed equipment,” he said.

CP resumed service on its tracks near White River, a major company line, Thursday evening.

The spill comes as pipeline shortages push growing volumes of oil onto trains. Rail tank cars are now moving oil across the continent from both the Bakken oil play in North Dakota and, increasingly, from both light and heavy oil fields in Canada.

The advent of rail transport has sparked a debate about the relative safety of oil pipelines compared to trains. Industry statistics have shown that trains have more spills. The rail industry argues that its spills are smaller, and it therefore spills less than pipelines. Some statistics show otherwise, however, and pipeline companies have argued that buried pipe is the safest method. Backers of rail movements, meanwhile, have argued that heavy oil – the kind that flows from the oil sands – can be moved more safely on tracks.

The oil and gas industry has faced intense scrutiny following major safety breaches in the Gulf of Mexico and Kalamazoo River. Subsequent pipeline spills – including a 12,000-barrel leak from an Exxon Mobil Corp. pipeline in Arkansas in late March – have provided fodder to critics who say new pipelines, including TransCanada Corp.’s Keystone XL project, are risky propositions.

Industry, however, says it safely delivers more than 99.99 per cent of the barrels that move both through pipelines and on trains.