BC, Alberta governments press ahead on plans for tar sands pipelines and exports

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That threat is confirmed by BC’s deputy premier Rich Coleman. It echoes the editorials published last month in the Vancouver Sun and Calgary Herald (leaving the reader to wonder, in passing, whose proposal it was in the first place—industry, governments or the newspapers?). The delivery destination is said to be Prince Rupert on the northern coast, an existing terminus of CN Rail.

Premiers Clark and Redford will meet in Vancouver early next month to press forward with their joint effort. This will set aside, once and for all, the charade staged by Clark beginning last year that she is in some sort of deep conflict with Alberta and Ottawa over the benefits to accrue from Northern Gateway. As the Globe and Mail recently reports, “Discussions between Ms. Clark and Alberta Premier Alison Redford were, as they both put it at the time, “frosty” last October, but have warmed considerably since the two leaders met in June” (one month following Clark’s surprise election victory).

Edmonton Journal columnist Graham Thompson wrote on Oct 17, “Alberta government sources say they’re amazed at how co-operative Clark has become since winning her majority government.”

In the wake of the oil train disaster in Lac Mégantic, Quebec and the two oil train derailments in Calgary this past summer, this new oil-by-train threat will be a difficult sell. It’s hard to tell how much of it is serious and how much is just pressure and bluff to win the pipeline. Thompson writes further, “Some environmental groups see this as intimidation. That’s only because it is."

He continued, “As threats go, it might not be as dramatic as finding a severed horse head in your bed but it’s hard to miss the message.”

The threat will certainly not assuage opposition to tar sands transport through the province.  Geraldine Flurer, coordinator of the Yinka-Dene Alliance in north-central B.C., told the Vancouver Sun that transporting oil by rail is not acceptable to First Nations already opposing pipelines. “Just imagine if there was just one accident — there would be devastation,” she said.

A letter last January by many of BC’s largest environmental groups warned CN Rail it would face stiff opposition if it proceeded with its reported interest in oil by rail.

Environmental groups in the U.S. that have been instrumental in blocking the approval process of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline are increasingly turning their attention to the tar sands export platform that the industry would like to create on the BC coast. Though the Northern Gateway and Trans Mountain Pipelines do not cross U.S. territory, the 700 or so ocean-going tankers required to transport their product annually are a direct threat to U.S. coasts and waters, say the groups. Not to speak of the health of the world’s climate.

The Vancouver Observer has recently reported that Port Metro Vancouver may be engaged in a stealth plan to create an oil by rail export terminal. It also has considerable capacity to expand coal exports, including the bizarre proposal of locating a new coal terminal (Fraser Docks) in the geographic center of the city. Nothing has been formally decided or announced on oil by rail, but the concern the author, Carrie Saxifrage, voices must be taken seriously.

The other tar sands pipeline proposal in BC—Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain line expansion—news of which sometimes gets lost amidst all the publicity surrounding Northern Gateway, is getting more and more attention,  including a flotilla protest on October 12 and a main gate sit-in at the company’s existing oil export terminal in Vancouver harbor.

So the fossil fuel cabal is right to be concerned. Its money and determination, sadly, indicates some tough slogging ahead for the defenders of Mother Earth.

Roger Annis resides in Vancouver and can be reached at rogerannis(at)hotmail.com.

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