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Greenpeace stages mock oil spill outside Northern Gateway office

Greenpeace set up a mock oil spill in front of Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline office on Wednesday, directly opposite the Environmental Emergency Office slated to close as part of the Harper government’s budget cuts. 

The protest highlights how risks from spills like the recent one near Red Deer, Alberta will increase with the federal budget bill, because it weakens environmental laws, while closing scientific and emergency response facilities.

“The Harper government is recklessly dismantling its environmental science and emergency response capacity even as it increases the risk of disastrous spills by pushing tar sands pipelines,” said Greenpeace climate and energy campaigner Melina Laboucan-Massimo. “Worse still, the government is trying to intimidate anyone who speaks out against their plan.”

Dressed in oil-covered Hazmat suits six Greenpeace volunteers stood beside leaking barrels of tar sands oil, branded with the Enbridge logo. They held a banner that read “Harper’s Canada” with check marks beside the words “Tar sands pipelines” and “Oil Supertankers.” The words “Environmental laws, Scientists, Oil Spill Response, Democracy” were crossed out.

Three others entered the Enbridge office and delivered a lifetime achievement award for environmental destruction, in the form of a cracked pipeline leaking tar sands oil. They asked questions about how the company was accounting for the high risk of spills, especially given its track record, and the reduction in response capacity by the government. In front of the Environmental Emergencies Office, passers-by were invited to leave their own video message to Harper in a Greenpeace ‘Speaker’s Corner.’

"It's not a matter of if another oil spill will happen, it's a matter of when," said Laboucan-Massimo. "The only way to ensure it doesn't happen, is to ensure the pipeline isn't built."

Donna Labrador, a Greenpeace volunteer and Langara College student, said a pipeline, like the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline, would be a mistake and have devastating environmental repercussions.

"It's inevitable that another an oil spill will result ... If there is a clean up, it is just going to clean up 12 to 15 per cent of the oil, the rest will sink into the ocea," she said, refering to the ocean route oil tankers would take if the pipeline is built.  

Two weeks ago, Greenpeace activists hung a massive banner off Vancouver’s Lions Gate bridge that read: “Save Our Coast: No Tar Sands Pipelines.”

“The biggest change to environmental laws in Canadian history shouldn’t be hidden inside a budget bill,” said Greenpeace climate and energy campaigner Mike Hudema from inside the office. “If the Conservatives truly believe that gutting environmental laws is in the public interest, they should welcome an open and informed debate.”

Greenpeace is calling on the Harper government to remove the changes to environmental laws from the budget bill, so that they can be properly reviewed. Changes include the closing of the regional oil spill response unit, even as the risks of pipeline and tanker spills in BC is being increased.

Enbridge proposes to build a 1,117 km pipeline to carry diluted bitumen across the Rockies to the port of Kitimat in northern BC, where it would be put on supertankers that would traverse through some of the most hazardous waters in the world. The company recently launched a multi-million dollar ad campaign to promote the controversial project.


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