PLANT

US oil sands opponents focus on BC pipeline proposals

New oil proposals would turn Pacific Northwest into a giant shipping lane.


VANCOUVER — Oil sands opponents who have used their public relations muscle to fight the Keystone XL pipeline that would flow from Canada into the US are turning their sights on two pipeline proposals in BC.

Although neither the Trans Mountain nor the Northern Gateway projects cross the border on land, the US arm of the conservation group Forest Ethics said the pipelines will result in an additional 700-plus tankers traversing the waters off the Pacific coast.

“From pipelines to tankers to crude-by-rail, we’re facing an onslaught of new oil proposals, many of them toxic oil sands oil, that would turn the Pacific Northwest into a giant shipping lane for oil, gas and for coal,” spokesman Matt Krogh said at a news conference in Seattle.

“This is a cross-border question. It has cross-border impacts.”

Forest Ethics and others have fought a high profile, celebrity-populated campaign against the proposed Keystone XL pipeline in the US, stalling for several years the project that would deliver oil sands bitumen from northern Alberta to refineries on the US Gulf Coast.

A final decision from President Barack Obama on Keystone is expected in the coming months, Krogh said, and attention is turning toward the impact that oil shipments to the BC coast will have, including tankers and an increase in oil-by-rail from Canada.

“You’re seeing the first steps in an international wall being created that’s actually going to stop tar sands export,” Krogh said.

Canadian conservation groups, including Forest Ethics in this country, have long been battling the BC pipeline projects.

The campaign south of the border was launched with a website tarsandssos.org, featuring real-time tracking of all tankers in and out of Kinder Morgan’s tanker terminal in Burnaby – the terminus of its Trans Mountain pipeline from Alberta.

The website showed the Liberian-flagged Aqualiberty and the US-flagged Sea Reliance moored in Burrard Inlet.

The Northern Gateway pipeline proposed by Calgary-based Enbridge would deliver 525,000 barrels of petroleum a day to a tanker terminal in Kitimat, on the north coast of BC.

Kinder Morgan’s proposed expansion of its existing Trans Mountain line would increase its capacity from 300,000 barrels a day to 890,000.

A Kinder Morgan official said that Canada and the US have a shared interest in the safe transport of oil through the Salish Sea.

“As we are developing our application to the National Energy Board, we have been meeting with Canadian and US agencies involved in the marine safety regime and are committed to continue discussions on both sides of the border,” Mike Davies, senior director of marine development for the project, said in an e-mail response to a request for an interview.

A federal panel weighing the Northern Gateway terminal will issue its report to the federal cabinet by the end of the year, and Kinder Morgan is expected – after much discussion of its expansion plans – to officially file an application for the Trans Mountain line later this year.

Federal government officials were in BC last week to meet with First Nations groups that have staunchly opposed Northern Gateway, and Enbridge officials met over the summer with leaders from more than a dozen communities along the pipeline route.

The company is on a veritable charm offensive as the clock ticks down on the panel report, releasing a new series of newspaper, radio, television and online ads that promise “a better pipeline.”

CEO Al Monaco said Enbridge has done well engaging communities affected by Northern Gateway, but broader issues around oil sands development and general skepticism over energy projects have become bigger and bigger factors in the public debate.

Monaco said he remains confident Northern Gateway will be built because it’s “so important to Canada.”

© 2013 The Canadian Press