[images and links in on-line article]
Third time’s a charm? Three recent spills a sad lesson on pipeline and
Oct 28 2016
Program Manager, Climate & Energy
Three major fuel spills – that’s the alarming record of the last three
months. The pipeline spills in Alberta and Saskatchewan and a diesel
spill off British Columbia’s central coast defy Big Oil’s claims that
tankers plying our coasts and pipelines crossing our land and water are
safe. They only confirm that the federal government must reject the
risky Energy East pipeline.
A look at recent headlines is certainly disheartening. A diesel spill in
the Seaforth Channel near Bella Bella, B.C. two weeks ago has become an
environmental disaster. An Alberta oil company admits it had no idea how
long one of its pipelines was leaking. And July’s oil spill in
Saskatchewan has now cost at least $90 million to “clean up”. One would
expect humility from the oil industry in the face of these disasters.
Instead, the industry insists that oil can be transported safely and
cleaned up as if nothing happened.
Case in point: supporters of Kinder Morgan’s massive Trans Mountain
Expansion pipeline proposal keep talking about safety and “world-class
spill response” – both on land and water. The devastating Bella Bella
spill shows that this is nothing but a cruel joke.
On October 13th, a diesel spill occurred in the coastal heart of the
Great Bear Rainforest when a fuel barge ran aground near Bella Bella,
B.C. Fortunately, the fuel barge was empty, but the tug boat powering it
leaked a still-unknown volume of diesel into the ocean. The spill isn’t
just devastating for wildlife, but also polluted traditional harvesting
areas for the Heiltsuk First Nation. The Heiltsuk, who depend on the
area for clams, herring and salmon, called the accident an environmental
disaster that has compromised their winter food supply.
B.C. Premier Christy Clark made “world-class marine oil spill response”
one of five conditions required for the province to accept Kinder
Morgan’s pipeline expansion. But it took a corporate spill response team
over 20 hours to arrive from Prince Rupert at the scene of the Bella
When help did arrive, a vessel tasked with clean-up took on water itself
and had to be rescued. Then, spill booms around the diesel failed,
compromising the containment of the spill. The disaster has demonstrated
that government and industry are utterly unable to provide “world-class”
spill response along Canada’s coast. It doesn’t bode well for the
prospect of massively increased tanker traffic in the Salish Sea and the
Bay of Fundy if Trans Mountain or Energy East go ahead.
But what about on-land spill response? Unfortunately, the recent Husky
and Trilogy pipeline spills paint a grim picture. In July, a Husky
Energy pipeline spilled up to 250,000 litres of heavy crude oil and
diluent, polluting a 500 km stretch of the North Saskatchewan River
system. The spill killed birds, fish and other animals, polluted the
drinking water supplies of 70,000 people and forced a First Nation to
declare a state of emergency. Three months later, Husky Energy still
hasn’t concluded what caused the spill, amidst allegations that the
company is lying about how much oil was leaked and how much was cleaned up.
As if the Saskatchewan spill wasn’t enough, a pipeline failed in
Alberta, too. On October 6th, Trilogy Energy discovered a leak of a
crude oil and water mix 15 km from the community of Fox Creek. Covering
over three hectares of marshland, the spill is estimated to have
released 250,000 litres of oil and water. The company still has no idea
how long the defective pipeline had been leaking. This is not a one-off
incident—a July report from the province’s energy watchdog said it
takes Alberta companies an average of 48 days to respond to and isolate
These spills should be enough to give our elected leaders pause when
considering approval of massive new tar sands pipelines like Energy East
and Kinder Morgan. Energy East would ship 1.1 million barrels per day
4,600 km across nearly 3,000 lakes, rivers and streams. It would then
load the crude onto export tankers, increasing tanker traffic in the Bay
of Fundy and down the Atlantic coast by 300 to 500 per cent. Kinder
Morgan would virtually triple the capacity of tar sands oil flowing to
Canada’s Pacific Coast, increasing tanker traffic in the Vancouver
The oil industry and federal government insist it’s possible to “get our
resources to market responsibly”. But these claims ring hollower with
every spill that pollutes our land, oceans, rivers and communities.
You can help stop risky pipeline and tanker projects. Take a minute and
tell the federal government to reject the Energy East pipeline.
Sustainablelorgbiofuel mailing list