The Trans Mountain pipeline has an opposition rate of 70 percent. John Bennett is the executive director of Sierra Club Canada. He claims that he has never seen an environmental issue receive as much support as the pipeline protestors in this instance in all of his 30 years. People from all walks of life are angry that their government is not listening to their concerns. While the Keystone pipeline remains a heavily contested issue in the United States, pipelines have become a Canadian problem as well.
The anger is directed at a pipeline carrying tar sands crude from Calgary, Alberta to the coast of British Columbia. The mammoth construction would carry 890,000 barrels of this dirty crude every day to a pristine and treasured area. Once there, it would be put into tankers, adding a danger to the ocean waters.
The route would travel over mountains and under a national park; the latter has resulted in the increased number of protestors. These rallies have not been organized by one group; people are just showing up when they become aware of a gathering.
Trans Canada Corporation has proposed the ‘Energy East’ project. They want to build a pipeline from Alberta to the St. Lawrence River area. Quebec is its biggest detractor. The St. Lawrence is a Beluga Whale calving ground. This region is the most active in attempts to reduce carbon emissions and building an export terminal in the area would certainly receive mass protests. It could transport 1.1 million barrels each day.
Why is there so much opposition for ventures which will raise revenue? There are multiple reasons. The first concerns, the revenue; who will profit from the flow of tens of millions of barrels of crude? After construction is completed, it will solely be the petroleum companies. The Keystone pipeline supporters claim that the tar sands crude will be refined and reduce America’s dependence on foreign oil. Untrue. It will be shipped to Asia and Europe. This crude is so dirty that it cannot be refined for use in America’s vehicles.
The major complaint is the possibility of environmental disaster. In September of 2013 a farmer discovered an oil leak near Tioga, North Dakota. Nearly two weeks later officials from Tesoro Corporation arrived to investigate the damage and begin repairs. Tesoro decided that the leak in an underground pipeline was the result of a lightning strike. This was later disputed and fines may be levied, mostly because of the time frame. North Dakota is accusing the oil magnate of not being aware of the break in the pipeline and is charging negligence.
It has been over a year since the incident. The estimated four million dollar cleanup has now reached 20 million; the cleanup is expected to take another year. 20,600 barrels of oil were released from the pipeline and permanently destroyed an area larger than seven football fields; it will never be farmed again. A barrel is a volume of 42 gallons.
Recently, in October of this year, a pipeline burst in Tete Bayou in Louisiana. Fortunately it was contained before it reached Caddo Lake, a source of drinking water. Animals were killed, and although there were no forced evacuations, several families left the area because of fumes. Sunoco, who operates the pipeline, is paying for their bills. So far 2,400 barrels of crude have seeped from the pipeline.
These new pipelines not only carry extremely higher volumes of crude, but will also contain a much ‘dirtier’ and more dangerous material. A single break in any of the proposed pipelines could prove disastrous to the communities or towns they will traverse.
By James Turnage