Almost exactly as the National Energy Board’s (NEB) new review of the marine impacts of the Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion (TMX) began, a preview of one of the devastating potential impacts of the expansion was on full display. Newfoundland faced its largest-ever marine oil spill, of over 250,000 litres of light crude.
The company responsible, Husky Energy, now says the oil has broken down so much that it can't be cleaned up. Their justification? “We followed our procedures,” according to Trevor Pritchard, senior vice-president of Husky Energy Atlantic Region. Like all other oil and gas corporations, Husky Energy feels no accountability.
Are They Going to Drain the Ocean?
The Husky spill was light crude oil, the Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion would result in a seven-fold increase in oil tanker traffic, but carrying diluted bitumen.
Diluted bitumen (also known as dilbit) is the industry term for Tar Sands oil. Dilbit is a mixture of the heavy tar-like bitumen that is mined from Tar Sands deposits and a highly flammable natural gas condensate that is mixed with the bitumen.
The oil industry has tried to claim that diluted bitumen floats with the same (apparently also uncleanable) properties of other oil, but scientists say otherwise. So do the real world examples. The Kalamazoo River oil spill occurred in July 2010 when a pipeline operated by Enbridge burst. At least 1 million gallons of dilbit blackened more than two miles of Talmadge Creek and almost 36 miles of the Kalamazoo River.
In the Kalamazoo case, the oil began sinking within two weeks. The cleanup took five years and cost over a billion dollars. If you look at the pictures, you can see entire sections of the river drained to clean to the bottom of the river. How do they expect to do that in the ocean?
NEB = National Energy (Extinction) Board
Does anyone have confidence the NEB will give this evidence a fair hearing? Prime Minister Trudeau ordered a time limit of 22 weeks based not on the time required to do a real assessment, but on railroading the process through to completion. As we previously reported, the NEB panel is flawed from the get-go, “Unfortunately, the ones who are to consider this compelling evidence and issue an unbiased report don't inspire any confidence. All were appointed by former Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Alison Scott oversaw the initial flawed review of the pipeline. Lyne Mercier was previously forced to recuse herself from the 2016 review of the Energy East pipeline project following an exposed private meeting with an industry representative, and according to Murray Lyttle's NEB bio he has 'held a series of senior positions in the oil, gas and mining industries' with 'nearly 40 years’ experience in the energy and mining sectors spanning North America, South America and Asia.' ”
Leading up to the hearings, impacted groups and individuals met the bizarre requirement of submitting only faxes, and sent over 66,400 message calling on the National Energy Board to respect Indigenous Rights and Title and to take real action to save the endangered Southern Resident Killer Whales leading up to the hearings.
“The Trudeau government’s slick, quick and dirty NEB process is a kick in the teeth to the Federal Court of Appeal ruling which quashed the federal approval for the Trans Mountain pipeline and tanker project,” said Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, President of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs (UBCIC).
“There is no chance that the impossibly short time frame and under-resourcing of the current NEB process will allow Canada to address the marine impacts of Trans Mountain properly. We continue to demand that this ill-conceived, dirty, garbage oil fuel expansion project be completely scrapped and that Canada invests in real clean energy development projects.”
“Since the discussion on this project started, a tanker in Vancouver Harbour spilled 40,000 litres of bunker fluid, and it took 8 hours for anyone to respond,” pointed out Chief Tyrone McNeil Sto:lo Tribal Council. “That’s not a good sign.”
“We know that there are impacts already from tanker traffic on the killer whale population and they have to consider their well-being, and they can’t just deny there is no impact on the killer whales,” said Chief Don Tom of the Tsartlip First Nation. “We’re on the right side of history when it comes to this pipeline project, and I believe it’s dead in the water. ”
We Won't Back Down
Interestingly, the NEB will conduct no review hearings in Vancouver, despite it being the location of many affected Indigenous Nations and the fact that they already have and permanent office there. The pipeline would even terminate close by. Instead, they will take place in Calgary, Victoria and Nanaimo.
This is probably not surprising given the intense level of opposition in the area. The week the hearings opened the Climate Convergence coalition organized a “Salish Sea Vs. NEB!” Day of Action. Over 150 people took over the intersection in front of the NEB Vancouver office, holding hand painted sea creatures from the effected Salish Sea. Police and extra security were present both inside and outside of the office, as protesters chanted, “We've been here before, it's plain to see, we're being sold out by the NEB!”
Participants then marched through the busy Black Friday crowds downtown chanting, “Build Our Future, Not a Pipeline!” and distributed information about the TMX Pipeline Expansion and sham NEB review. The rally grew as passersby joined in and began chanting as well.
At the Vancouver Public Library Simon Fraser University climatologist Dr. Kirsten Zickfeld, a Lead Author of the recent United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, summarized its findings, which warn of catastrophic effects from climate change if the world does not significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the next 12 years.
Dr. Zickfeld was very clear on two points: there is no room for the TMX Pipeline carbon emissions in the world's remaining “carbon budget,” but there is also a clear path to a sustainable world. "We know the way forward, what's lacking is the political leadership to make it happen."
Discussion continued on the local issue of stopping the TMX pipeline as well as connecting this struggle to the larger international movement confronting the emerging climate emergency. What was most clear: people have not given hope in defeating the pipeline, or building a just and sustainable world. The NEB hearings are expected to finish in mid-February, and there will be ongoing climate justice actions before, during and after the sham review process incomplete.
No TMX Pipeline Expansion!
Build Our Future, Not a Pipeline!
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