Tar Sands Gaining Momentum

By March 13, 2014Hot Topic

By Glen Thompson. Over a 100 people squeezed into a medium sized ballroom at the Best Western March 7th, where 3 accomplished speakers made the case against 2 pipeline projects that will connect the West Coast to the Alberta Tar Sands. The projects seemed to stall during the provincial election but have now picked up a sudden momentum ahead of the federal election. They are deserving of our attention. It struck me during the event that many people are unaware of the fact the Kinder Morgan project is actually 2 pipelines and the Enbridge Northern Gateway project is also 2 pipelines.

The Kinder Morgan Pipeline is two pipelines

We hear a lot about the National Energy Board (NEB) hearings for Kinder Morgan’s proposed expansion of the aging Trans Mountain Pipeline. The events keynote speaker Andrew Nikiforuk said “The expected life span of the [Trans Mountain] pipeline is 50 years. The pipeline is 61 years old.” It seems logical and perhaps fair, for the company to expand capacity of the pipeline while digging it up for what’s becoming urgent repair. Many are aware that increasing the pipe’s capacity to serve the domestic and US markets is part of their plan. What isn’t so well known is the expansion plan also includes a second, brand new pipeline. The second pipeline will export unprocessed bitumen to world markets. It’s rather convenient politically for Kinder Morgan to combine a new pipeline proposal into an overdue repair program.

Former Enron Executives Richard Kinder and William Morgan founded Kinder Morgan in 1997 when they bought out Enron’s Pipeline assets.

The Enbridge Pipeline is also two pipelines

Another lesser known fact is that the Northern Gateway Pipeline proposed by Enbridge is also made up of 2 pipelines, one going each way. The first Pipeline will bring unprocessed Bitumen from the Tars Sands to the BC Coast, the second pipeline will import a product called condensate from the BC Coast and send it to Alberta. According to West Coast Environmental Law condensate is a “toxic kerosene-like natural gas by-product used to dilute crude oil so that it can be transported by pipeline”. So ironically Northern Gateway will not only increase oil exports by 500,000 Barrel Per Day, it will increase imports of petro-products ie condensate by 200,000 Barrels Per Day.

Three researchers made presentations at The Pipe Up Network event. They were welcomed by notable first nations advocate Larry Commodore. Natalie Jones of Water Wealth was a warm and effective MC.

The first speaker was Liz McDowell from Conversations for Responsible Economic Development CRED. McDowell grew up in Chilliwack and holds a finance degree from McGill. She is the founder of the Otesha Project UK and worked for the UN Institute for Training and Research. Her presentation focused on the impact of pipelines on property values. She presented an assessment of the real estate risk of an oil spill in southern BC. She listed a number of case studies that showed property values near pipelines decline most dramatically based on the number of incidents and do affect properties along the pipeline route far away from the spill area. In other words several spills in Burnaby could result in a devaluation of Chilliwack properties. The property loss studies indicate a range in severity resulting from recent spills: 4.6% drop in Washington state 1999, 10.2% in Texas 1994 and 25% in Ohio 1991 (Source CRED). Liz concluded her analysis with economic statistics of the Tar Sands contributions to GDP. The figures she presented were surprisingly low about 2% of National GDP. (Note: The Tar Sands is a primary industry; these industries produce an economic multiplier effect that was factored into the 2% figure)

In 2007 Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline spilled 250,000 litres of oil in Burnaby

The second presenter, Melina Laboucan Massimo, lives in northern Alberta, in the Lubicon Cree First Nation. She earned her Master’s degree in environmental studies at York University and has worked as a climate and energy campaigner for Green Peace. She gave an historical overview of the extensive Oil and Gas developments in Lubicon territory showing a map that is covered in industrial activity. She elaborated on many technical aspects of the toxic chemicals the industry works with and gave a personal description of a large spill that occurred in the Lubicon territory.

Oil on Lubicon Land a photo essay

The Keynote speaker was Author Andrew Nikiforu. He stated “I am an Albertan, and I can tell you, Albertans are becoming increasingly uneasy with what is going on in the Tar Sands.” He said the economic benefits of the Tar Sands are overstated. He emphasized Tar Sands oil coming west would be for export to the east not for the US or domestic consumption. The US demand for oil has been in a steady decline since 2008. “Americans are driving less and producing more [oil] domestically, especially in North Dakota”. He also said that as a result American refineries, some of which are foreign owned are exporting more. Ironically some of the Tar Sands oil Canada exports to the US is refined on the gulf coast and then sold back to Canada.

The three speakers took questions and each stressed hope in the closing remarks.

More information on the case against the Tar Sands can be found here.

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