Keystone XL decision linked to B.C. pipelines

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U.S. approval of the Keystone XL pipeline from Alberta to Nebraska would take “some of the pressure” off two contentious pipelines being planned in B.C., according to a senior policy analyst with the Pembina Institute.

However, the Calgary-based think tank’s Nathan Lemphers emphasized that this reprieve would only be for the “short term”.

“That doesn’t mean that the pressure is completely off, because as oilsands continue to ramp up their production, they’ll continue to need additional pipeline space,” Lemphers told the Straight in a phone interview from Ottawa.

The U.S. Department of State is expected to conclude its review of TransCanada’s new Keystone XL application sometime after March of this year. The company’s 2008 application was denied a permit in January 2012.

Lemphers noted that a final decision is expected to come around May. That’s about the same time as hearings by a joint review panel will finish on a proposal by Enbridge Inc. to build a twin pipeline from Alberta to B.C.’s north coast. In late 2013, Kinder Morgan is expected to file an application to twin its existing Trans Mountain Pipeline, which originates in Edmonton and terminates in Burnaby.

Lemphers maintained that the stakes involved in the decision about Keystone XL are global in nature. “It will be a clear signal from the Obama administration on how serious the U.S. will be over the next four years on addressing the threats posed by climate change,” he said.

Hearings on Enbridge’s Northern Gateway proposal are being held for a second time in Vancouver until February 1.

Citing overwhelming popular opposition to the Enbridge project, UBC business professor Keith Head suggested that Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain expansion could be the fallback option in the drive to find more foreign buyers of Canadian oil.

“There’s already lots of infrastructure for dealing with oil tankers coming in and out of Burrard Inlet,” Head told the Georgia Straight
by phone. “It’s much easier to add to something that already exists, both economically and psychologically, than to go into completely virgin territory.”

As campaign director for Tanker Free B.C., Sven Biggs sees no reason for environmental activists to let down their guard. Speaking by phone, Biggs told the Straight : “We’re going to be up against pretty powerful corporations no matter what happens south of the border with Keystone XL.”

Comments (4) Add New Comment
Ross Hurlbert
The biggest problem that probably isn't being discussed, is the wear on the elbows of the pipeline with Bitumen(Oil and Sand)OilSands. Worked there, know the maintenance the pipes go through. Elbows on bitumen pipeline are the major cause of most of the accidents involving the pipe. Or are they hiding those numbers too........
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Raheel Yousaf
The major concern to think about should be that how we can transport bitumen to south while ensuring environmental protection at the same time
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man's plans to survive -part 2-
Caribou have made the northern hemisphere their home for 1.6 million years, but today, some populations of caribou are declining. Environment Canada recognizes the boreal and southern mountain populations of caribou (Rangifer tarandus caribou) in Alberta as threatened. ?. . . the Alberta Caribou Committee notes that three of the province?s 18 herds are at immediate risk of disappearing because of loss of habitat. Six are in decline, three are stable, and not enough is known about the remaining six to determine how well they are doing,? wrote Canadian author and Arctic specialist Ed Struzik on October 27 in Environment360. ?Scientists are confident, however, that they are in decline as well, further fueling efforts to protect caribou by eradicating wolves,? he wrote.

A team of Canadian and U.S. scientists, led by Samuel Wasser, director of the Center for Conservation Biology at the University of Washington, agrees that mining oil from tar sands is a greater threat to caribou than predation by wolves. Lu Carbyn, an Emeritus Research Scientist with the Canadian Wildlife Service and adjunct professor at the University of Alberta, agrees that restoring habitat in highly disturbed oil and gas regions should be the top priority for anyone interested in caribou conservation.

The Wasser study found that in winter, when food sources for caribou diminish and the animals rely on lichen, oil production activity is at its height. Moreover, oil extracting operations take place in the same open, frozen areas that caribou use. The noise, vehicles, machinery and industrial commotion of oil extraction stress the caribou as they try to paw through the snow for sustenance. Wasser?s group recommended that high-use roads be moved out of the open, flat areas.

Tar sands extraction is one more in a long series of insults to the natural resources of Alberta. Logging and oil and gas production are also adversely altering, fragmenting and degrading the boreal forests of Canada. ?At last count, 34,773 wells, 66,489 kilometers of seismic lines, 11,591 kilometers of pipelines, and 12,283 kilometers of roads had been built in caribou country in west central and northern Alberta. That doesn?t include the vast areas of forest that have been logged,? according to Struzik.
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man's survival plan -part 3-
Carving up forests is threatening caribou, many experts say, including the Canadian government itself. ?Boreal caribou are primarily threatened by a reduction in the availability and suitability of habitat necessary to carry out the life processes necessary for their survival and reproduction,? states Environment Canada?s proposed caribou recovery plan. More development means more habitat loss, and fewer caribou, wolves and other wildlife. All wildlife need healthy habitats to thrive.

In essence, it seems that Canada has decided to scapegoat wolves for the decline in caribou populations for the sake of promoting yet another polluting, heat-trapping fuel.

Tar sands oil extraction is wreaking havoc on the environment in Alberta in other ways and there?ll be more through the heart of America if TransCanada gets a permit.

To produce one barrel of this heavy crude, extractors level the forest, dig up four tons of earth, consume two to four barrels of fresh water, burn large amounts of natural gas and create toxic sludge holding ponds. Multiple chemicals can escape from tar sands operations.

Then there are the holding ponds. Operations in Alberta have already created 65 square miles of toxic holding ponds, which could kill scores of migrating birds and pollute downstream watersheds if they fail.

In the United States, the pipeline could impair a broad range of habitats, including many rivers, sage grouse habitat and walleye fisheries. Once built, the pipeline could break and leak. The Keystone XL would carry tar sands sludge and bitumen, a substance more corrosive than crude oil that is thinned with other petroleum condensates and pumped at high pressure and at a temperature of more than 150 degrees through the pipeline.
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