Friday, October 12, 2012
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
“I’ve had briefings (with Enbridge), they talk about all the jobs and the economic activity in B.C. And I said, ‘Look, I’ve been in the oilpatch and the world long enough to know that that the pipeline will be built in a hurry, and that means people come from all over the place. Don’t tell me all of those jobs will involves British Columbians. It just won’t happen…. So let’s be honest with those numbers. Let’s tell the people what is truthful.”
~ Richard Neufeld, former B.C. energy minister and Conservative senator
In this issue:
- Keystone XL Erodes Democracy in the United States
- Industry Proposes Caribou Zoo Rather than Protecting Critical Habitat
- Opposition Mounts to Growing Web of Tarsands Pipelines
- Nobel Laureate Tours Route of Pipeline that Will Never Happen
- Conservative Senator Admits Enbridge Playing Fast and Loose with the Facts
Things have taken quite a turn in East Texas, where TransCanada and the local police force are using repressive measures usually associated with third-world dictatorships to stifle growing opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline – including what appears to be an attempt to prevent the media from covering the protests.
According to NPR, “two reporters covering the protests for The New York Times … were handcuffed and detained by a security guard for TransCanada (the Canadian company behind the pipeline) and local police.” The reporters, who were on private land at the invitation of the landowner, were released, but told they had to leave the property immediately or they’d be arrested for trespassing.
“They complied,” Eileen Murphy, Vice President of Corporate Communications for the New York Times told NPR. “We obviously don’t want to be in a position where our reporters are facing arrest.”
In the last two weeks, peaceful protestors were treated violently with pepper spray, choke holds and other brutal punishments; one was charged retroactively with a felony, several others held on bail of thousands of dollars; a landowner was forced to sign an agreement including a gag order; another's small vineyard was destroyed to make way for the company's project,
Some landowners who have joined protests over the pipeline’s construction have even been arrested for trespassing on their own property. Landowner Eleanor Fairchild, a 78-year-old grandmother, and actress and activist Daryl Hannah were arrested for trespassing on Fairchild’s land as they attempted to stop heavy equipment from clearing a path for the pipeline.
If this sounds familiar, it's probably because you've read about events like these in Nigeria or Burma, where foreign oil companies like Shell and Chevron routinely employ military and police to provide security for oil operations. But these events have taken place in Winnsboro, Texas, apparently at the behest of TransCanada as it rushes to build the Keystone XL tarsands pipeline.
If this is what it takes to build a tar sands pipeline in pro-oil Texas, imagine what will happen if they try it in Nebraska or Vermont. As it happens, TransCanada is planning to try this in Nebraska and Exxon and Suncor may be planning to do it in Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine. Oil companies are on notice: Protests like the ones in Texas, with even more popular support, are inevitable. Protestors (and journalists) are also on notice: This is a just cause, but it could get nasty. Oil companies are accustomed to getting their way and are not afraid to use their considerable power, even if it means violence and repression.
Meanwhile several people still occupy tree houses along the pipeline route, and if recent actions are any indication, their safety is not a major concern of TransCanada. Journalists and other observers need to keep an eye on what is happening in Winnsboro, Texas.
CLEANING UP DIRTY OIL
In what would be a sea-change in the way Canada protects federally listed species at risk, the tarsands industry is proposing that threatened caribou herds be fenced in what amounts to a make-shift zoo to protect them from the devastating impacts of the irresponsible and unsustainable development of Alberta’s tarsands. Predators, such as wolves and bears, would be eliminated from the 1500 square kilometer enclosure. It’s unclear whether industrial development would still take place inside the caribou pen.
Although several experts have determined that the idea is “feasible,” it is unclear whether penning threatened caribou would satisfy the legal requirements of Canada’s Species at Risk Act to protect critical habitat for the species.
Stan Boutin, a leading authority on woodland caribou and a professor at the University of Alberta, has come to support the proposal, but other biologists voiced strongly opposition to the idea. After hearing the news on CBC’s “As It Happens” radio program, Ian Hugget, a conservation biologist from Chelsea Quebec, wrote in an email that, Boutin “bases his arguments on the assumption that society places greater emphasis on resource exploitation than on wildlife conservation. I challenge this assumption. Rather than … forcing wildlife to adjust to our ever-expanding industrial enterprise. We should take stock of our northern development’s profound impacts on existing species that call the landscape of northern Alberta home. Once biologists, advocates for the sanctity of the natural world, adopt a worldview that the rest of animate creation comes second to human exploitation, commerce and greed, we have failed our profession.”
“I get more depressed every year when I teach about the human impacts on our environment,” Jennifer Cleanse, a biology instructor at UBC, told CBC’s Talk Back Line. “Sadly, we can’t fence ourselves out of the hinterlands.”
The announcement comes on the heels of the release of the latest draft of the federal recovery plan for threatened woodland caribou, including several herds in the tarsands region. Boutin said the final draft of the plan is weaker than a draft proposed last spring.
"It is definitely 'watered down' from the initial draft," Boutin told The Canadian Press. He pointed out that the plan doesn't allow for industrial development to be stopped if it degrades caribou habitat below the thresholds laid out in the plan. The plan allows development to proceed as long as a “vague plan” is in place, which could take decades to implement.
“Unfortunately, the recovery strategy … fails to move us forward in any substantive fashion in terms of reducing habitat disturbance,” wrote Jason Unger in an Alberta Environmental Law Centre Blog. Alberta’s woodland caribou plan, meanwhile, continues to rely on what he says are “continuing mitigation efforts that appear unlikely to drastically reduce the disturbance footprint in Alberta’s caribou ranges.”
“Both federal and provincial policies for the recovery of caribou herds in Alberta remain high on aspiration and optimism and low on action. The provincial and federal governments need to work toward bringing regulatory provisions to bear that require timely and progressive restoration of habitat in caribou ranges if the herds are to be restored and sustained.”
The debate, no doubt, will be fierce.
CLEANING UP DIRTY PIPELINES
While Montanans sue Exxon for damages from a Yellowstone River pipeline leak, and the EPA continues to pressure Enbridge to clean up the mess it left in the Kalamazoo River, opposition is gaining steam against Exxon’s tarsands pipeline in New England.
According to NRDC, ten national and local Maine, Vermont and New Hampshire organizations released a fact sheet exposing Big Oil's stealth campaign to bring extra dirty tar sands to New England. Research indicates that ExxonMobil – not some friendly local New England company – is actually the majority owner of the Portland-Montreal oil pipeline, which currently transports conventional oil through New England from Portland, Maine to Montreal, Quebec. What’s more, Exxon’s pipeline companies are aiming to reverse the pipeline for sending dirty tar sands to Portland, Maine – facilitating an expansion of the tar sands in Alberta, Canada and allowing tar sands to be shipped to refineries on the East Coast of Canada or the United States, or even to Europe or Asia.
“As a landowner and a businessman who depends on the clean waters along the Crooked River, I’m very concerned about the possibility of tar sands running through this pipeline,” said Lee Margolin, owner of the Pennesseewassee Brewing Company in Harrison, ME. “Ale has only four ingredients and one of them is clean water, so it is exceedingly important to quality of my product. I also happen to have a doctorate in biology and understand some of the chemicals involved in tar sands, and I’m a member of a local fishing club—no matter which hat I wear, this proposal makes me very worried.
“New England residents are realizing what is happening, though, and are beginning to express their concerns,” wrote NRDC’s Elizabeth Shope. “Exxon needs to realize this project isn’t going to face any less scrutiny than the Keystone XL or Northern Gateway tar sands pipelines.”
Nobel Peace Prize winner Jody Williams wants to see for herself the potential impacts of energy and pipeline development associated with the tarsands on women and children. Williams, who shared the Nobel Peace Prize in 1997 with the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, is leading a delegation of prominent women on a weeklong series of meetings along the proposed Northern Gateway Pipeline route from Fort McMurray, Alberta to Kitimat, BC.
“Unfortunately, like in too many situations of crisis around the world, the women and their children are the ones who suffer the most when their environment is destroyed,” Williams said in a video on the Nobel Women’s Initiative website. “So our delegation is going to go and look at what is happening in the possible expansion of the tarsands to their communities and the women’s perspective on why they don’t want to see that happen.”
The trip is being organized by the Nobel Women’s Initiative, an Ottawa-based organization of women who have won the Nobel Peace Prize and advocate women’s rights. The delegation also includes Canadian singer-songwriter Sarah Harmer, Kenyan environmentalist Ikal Angelei, corporate executive Chris Page, and climate scientist Marianne Douglas from the University of Alberta.
The journey kicked off on October 9, less than a week after one of Canada’s most prominent political journalists pronounced that the Northern Gateway pipeline will never be built.
“The Northern Gateway pipeline that Enbridge proposes to build from Alberta’s bitumen oil to the Pacific coast of British Columbia is, for all intents and purposes, dead,” wrote The Globe and Mail’s Jeffrey Simpson. “It has too many obstacles now, and there’ll be more in the future. [Getting] bitumen oil to Asia through northern B.C. just ain’t going to happen.”
When truth is on your side, support can come from surprising places. While thousands of Canadians make plans to descend on Victoria, BC for a powerful show of civil disobedience opposing Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline proposal, one of Canada’s most outspoken champions of the oil and gas industry doubts whether Enbridge will ever build a pipeline to the B.C. coast — even if the $6-billion Northern Gateway project gets federal approval.
Although Richard Neufeld, a former B.C. energy minister and now a Conservative senator, strongly supports the construction of pipelines to the B.C. coast, he’s worried that the Northern Gateway pipeline will never see the light of day because Enbridge has so badly mismanaged the $6-billion project. “I just think Enbridge has left such a sour taste in most peoples’ mouths,” Neufeld said.
In particular, Neufeld claims Enbridge, which promises the project will create 3,000 construction jobs and 560 long-term jobs, isn’t being straight with the public. “I’ve had briefings (with Enbridge), they talk about all the jobs and the economic activity in B.C. And I said, ‘Look, I’ve been in the oilpatch and the world long enough to know that that the pipeline will be built in a hurry, and that means people come from all over the place. Don’t tell me all of those jobs will involves British Columbians. It just won’t happen…. So let’s be honest with those numbers. Let’s tell the people what is truthful.”
Enbridge has taken its spin machine to Michigan, where they're telling tall tales about their clean-up efforts in Kalamazoo, Michigan. On October 3, Enbridge held their "Investor Days," where they provided anonymous quotes from locals claiming that the Kalamazoo River is “cleaner now than it was before” the company’s devastating 3-million-litre tar sands disaster in 2010.
“Looks like someone's nose is growing,” Forest Ethics Advocacy wrote on its website. “And this time, it's not Pinocchio.”
The grim reality is that the Kalamazoo River is still oily. As Enbridge was making its presentation, the US Environmental Protection Agency sent out a press release warning Enbridge of an “oily sheen” from submerged oil, ordering additional clean-up in three different sections of the river.
So let Enbridge’s CEO Al Monaco know that greenwashing doesn't clean up oil spills.
It’s this kind of disingenuous spin that has, in part, inspired thousands of Canadians to gather in Victoria in two weeks for an act of civil disobedience to Defend Our Coasts. Make your pledge today!