We’re Being Played

When I woke up today, my local TV, morning news was highlighting the National Energy Board’s investigation of Enbridge and specifically their pipeline safety record. That’s good news for those of us who oppose the Northern Gateway Pipelines, right? It should be good news, because Enbridge is now infamous for their pipeline leaks. Unfortunately, I had trouble accepting the good news.

Q: Why wasn’t I happy about the news?
A: The sequence and timing of recent pipeline news releases has my gut telling me that we’re being played by Big Oil, Enbridge, the Harper Government and possibly even the NEB.

A classic sales technique is the ‘Feel — Felt — Found’ approach. When a salesperson encounters resistance, referred to as an objection, they will often counter with, “I know how you feel, I felt the same way, until I found…”. Stephen Harper and his merry band of Big Oil sycophants are well aware that there are very significant objections to the planned Northern Gateway Pipelines. To assuage British Columbians, they’ve, for the moment, strategically chosen to appear reasonable, even conciliatory; after all, there’s still plenty of time for them to achieve their ultimate goal of selling tar sand’s bitumen (heavy crude oil) to China.

Here’s what I see as the ‘Feel’ part of the Conservative’s plan:

  • “This project will not survive public scrutiny unless Enbridge takes far more seriously their obligation to engage the public.” – James Moore, Harper Government Cabinet Minister
  • “The only way governments can handle controversial projects of this manner is to ensure that things are evaluated on an independent basis scientifically, and not simply on political criteria…” – Stephen Harper, Prime Minister of Canada

The ‘Felt’ and ‘Found’ parts of Harper’s plan will only become evident when the NEB report is released. I’d be willing to wager that the National Energy Board will report that the Northern Gateway Pipeline’s potential financial benefits to Canada far outweigh the potential, minuscule, environmental risks to British Columbia. When that happens, Stephen Harper will be able to say, “I share the environmental concerns of British Columbians, but today I’m reassured, because independent, scientific analysis has concluded that the Northern Gateway project will be safe and will deliver enormous benefits to all Canadians. It’s a great day for our jobs and prosperity initiative.”

Now, suppose I’m wrong and the NEB actually surprises me by not endorsing the Northern Gateway Pipeline. I imagine that, at that time, Stephen Harper will be forced to reveal his carefully orchestrated agenda. Recall that the Harper Government’s Bill C–38 gave the federal Cabinet the power to overrule the NEB’s recommendation. If this government gets ‘bad’ news from the NEB, I’m convinced they’ll endorse the Northern Gateway Pipelines anyway.

Don’t be misled by their recent statements, everything the Harper Government has done, so far, points toward an ultimate outcome that is favourable to Big Oil, Enbridge, Alberta and China. I don’t trust the Harper Government and neither should you.

The Enbridge Northern Pipeline

Enbridge Keystone Kops

My first post on this website was ‘Northern Gateway Pipelines’, but since then I’ve commented about the potential dangers of the Enbridge northern pipeline again and again.

Enbridge was obviously concerned that environmentalists opposed to the Northern Gateway Pipelines were gaining a little traction here in British Columbia, so the Enbridge PR team was tasked to launch a $5 million ($5,000,000) pro-pipeline ad campaign. If you’ve missed it, so far, you really must have been living under a rock, the ads were and still are pervasive.

Q: Has the Enbridge PR team managed to sway public opinion in favour of the Enbridge northern pipeline?
A: Probably not.

Q: Why has their impressive ad campaign failed?
A: Enbridge was making news.

Enbridge news:

  1. The USA’s National Transportation Safety Board recently referred to Enbridge as Keystone Kops/Cops. Here’s the NTSB’s Press Release regarding the 318,000,000 litre oil spill into the Kalamazoo River in Michigan. The ‘clean’ up* took two years and cost about $800,000,000.
  2. The recent Enbridge Athabasca pipeline leak that occurred Monday, 18 June 2012.

The end result is that, right now, everyone seems to be writing off the pipeline, saying it’s dead. Whoa, stop, hold on, let’s not forget that the Harper Government devastated environmental and fisheries laws specifically to ensure approval of the Enbridge pipeline. The Cabinet can still approve this thing. Most people have a very short attention span and short memories is what Stephen Harper always relies upon. Unfortunately, we still can’t assume the Enbridge northern pipeline is dead.

Here’s the Enbridge northern pipeline parody video:

*Can diluted bitumen (heavy crude oil) be cleaned up? The following, unconfirmed, video suggests that spilled heavy crude returns to it’s original state, leaving Michigan with their own mini-version of Canada’s tar sands courtesy of Enbridge and Big Oil.

Related articles:

  1. Scathing U.S. report won’t change Ottawa’s mind on Northern Gateway
  2. It’s semi-official: The Enbridge Northern Gateway project is kaput!

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Enbridge Athabasca Pipeline Leak

Enbridge, The Northern Gateway Pipelines, “Path to our future” company, experienced a new oil spill on Monday, 18 June 2012. The Enbridge Athabasca pipeline leak occurred when a flange-gasket gave way, near Elk Point, about 200 kilometres northeast of Edmonton, Alberta.

Background: The Enbridge Athabasca pipeline carries heavy crude oil from the Fort McMurray tar sands to Hardisty (~ 541 km).

map Elk Point Alberta

Interestingly, Enbridge referred to the two hundred and thirty thousand (230,000) litre leak as an oil “release”; as if the leak had been planned, which, of course, it had not.

Q: Did the location name, “Hardisty”, ring a bell?
A: It should, because the proposed Northern Gateway Pipelines are intended to carry heavy crude oil from Hardisty, AB to Kitimat, BC.

If you live in BC, ask yourself, what’s going to happen when a future Enbridge leak and oil spill dumps heavy crude oil and chemicals into a pristine BC waterway? What happens to our water? What happens to the fish and wildlife? Did you know that the proposed Northern Gateway Pipelines cross at least seven hundred streams before they reach Kitimat. FYI, Fisheries and Oceans Canada previously stated the number of streams and rivers was actually over one thousand (1,000), not the seven hundred Enbridge claims.

Q: How often do Enbridge pipeline leaks and oil spills happen?
A: We don’t really know.

I found this quote from Alberta’s oil and gas regulator, the Energy Resources Conservation Board (ERCB) disturbing, “This one (referring to this Enbridge spill) is significant enough that we issued a news release on it.” I wonder, how many leaks occur that we never hear about?

Q: Will the Harper Government approve the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipelines?
A: It certainly looks like they will. Bill C–38 was crafted to eliminate environmental obstacles and ultimately, to ensure approval. The Conservative Cabinet can, if necessary, overrule the National Energy Board’s recommendations. In the end:

  • China wants the Pacific pipelines and
  • Big Oil has already calculated their anticipated profits,

so what do you imagine Stephen Harper will do?

BTW, regarding this oil “release”, Enbridge was quick to assert that, “there is no risk to public health or safety.”

Deformed fish found swimming in the Athabasca River have been trying to tell us that Canada’s tar sands adventure hasn’t been working very well for fish and they would like to, respectfully suggest, to us, that it’s time we started giving a little more consideration to what we’re doing to the Earth’s ecosystem. 🙂

Tar sands skyline courtesy of Greenpeace
Image courtesy of Greenpeace

Related posts:

  1. The Enbridge Conundrum
  2. Northern Gateway Pipelines
  3. Dirtiest Oil on Earth Video

Related articles:

  1. Enbridge slammed for ‘Keystone Kops’ response to Michigan spill
  2. David Suzuki: The catastrophic effects of oil pipeline spills
  3. Spate of oil spills pushes Alberta to look harder at pipeline safety
  4. Enbridge has a best friend in Ottawa

Red Deer River Oil Deluge

Other than “tragic”, what is the best word to describe the Red Deer River oil deluge?

Q: First, why use the word “deluge” and not “spill”?
A: You “spill” a cup of coffee, hundreds of thousands of litres of oil is a deluge, not a spill. Interestingly, it could have been even worse, the pipeline wasn’t flowing at the time.

“I have 57 acres and it has come right through all of it… It’s complete and sheer devastation… They came into my place, my shop, my ecosystem, and they destroyed it… This is my world. I didn’t break it, they broke it… There are not words to describe this.”
– Gord Johnston

Background: Thursday, 7 June 2012, a 1966 era, Plains Midstream Canada, oil pipeline burst into the Red Deer River, and oil flowed into Gleniffer Lake, north of Sundre, Alberta. Alberta’s 724 km (450 mi) long Red Deer River is a major tributary of the South Saskatchewan River.

Re: “north of Sundre”: The Mayor of Sundre wants everyone to know that no oil spilled in the backcountry, or along the river, so all activities associated with the river, such as whitewater rafting and camping are open and ready for business.

Red Deer River oil and Gleniffer Lake

Q: OK, now back to my original question, what’s the best word to describe the Red Deer River oil deluge?
A: Alberta’s Premier, Alison Redford, chose the word “exception” in her attempt to convince Canadians that this spill isn’t the norm for oil pipelines, instead she suggested, it was an exception, it was not the rule. I disagree, my suspicion is that, where there is an oil pipeline there will be “spills”; not every day, month or even every year, but sooner or later. I suggest that a better word to describe this oil deluge is “awkward”, because the oil pipe bursting was very awkwardly timed for:

  • Enbridge and their planned, much hyped, $5.5 Billion Northern Gateway Pipelines (you know, “The path to our future…”)
  • the Harper Government’s oil agenda
  • most of all, it’s very awkward for the multinational oil and gas corporations who would have us believe that mining our tar sands and delivering heavy crude oil to Pacific markets can be accomplished in an environmentally friendly fashion.

Tar sands image courtesy of Greenpeace
Tar sands image courtesy of Greenpeace

A tar sands’ dump truck pictured below will give you a better perspective of the tar sands’ mining shown above.

Tar sands truck

The bottom line is that oil pipelines leak, it happens more often than you might imagine (watch this video).

The Red River oil deluge was tragedy for Gord Johnston and other Albertans living near the burst pipe and it should act as a warning to residents of British Columbia.

Update (20120614): According to York University Professor, Sean Kheraj, pipelines in Alberta carrying either oil or some combination of oil, gas or distillates failed on average every 1.4 days. Since 2006, the province’s pipelines have spilled the equivalent of almost 28 million litres of oil. A single litre of spilled oil can contaminate a million litres of groundwater. >> Vancouver Sun article

The Enbridge Conundrum

Q: What is the Enbridge conundrum?
A: How can a corporation once named one of Canada’s greenest companies be responsible for delivering about 318,000,000 litres (84,000,000 gallons) of crude oil per day? Yes, I know about their CO2 sequestration, solar power, waste heat recovery and wind farm initiatives, but they’re still a major player in the fossil fuels marketplace. How is that green? To be fair, Enbridge is doing exactly what I think we should be doing with the tar sands, they’re using profits from oil and gas to transition to green technologies. Unfortunately, they’re also promoting a really bad plan that will inevitably lead to an environmental catastrophe.

I first became aware of Enbridge™, years ago, when I watched a newscast referencing an oil spill from one of their many pipelines (they have over 13,000 kilometres of pipeline). Recently, like all other residents of British Columbia Canada, I’ve been bombarded by their public relations blitz for their Northern Gateway Pipelines. Enbridge is currently investing up to five million dollars ($5,000,000) to convince BC residents that their planned pipeline is “a path to our future”. I suspect Big Oil is contributing additional funds to ensure the pipeline becomes a reality as soon as possible.

Q: “What kind of PR campaign can you buy for about $5,000,000?”
A: You can hire a team of designers and copywriters whose job it is to brand a heavy crude oil pipeline and oil port as something magical, wonderful and hopeful.

Ask yourself, does the combination of the designer’s beautiful artwork, pretty colours and the copywriter’s cleverly crafted story alter the fact that multinational oil and gas corporations have asked Enbridge to build a pipeline through BC’s pristine wilderness? Does it change the fact that when the heavy crude oil arrives in Kitimat, it will be pumped into enormous supertankers that will then travel along BC’s world-renowned, Pacific coastline, loaded with heavy crude oil?

Q: Do Enbridge pipelines ever leak?
A: Yes, according to Enbridge’s own data (via the Polaris Institute), they’ve had at least eight hundred and four (804) spills. The USA’s EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) reported that a recent spill, from a 30-inch pipeline rupture, dumped 819,000 gallons of heavy crude oil into the Talmadge Creek and some oil travelled about 30 miles downstream in the Kalamazoo River (Michigan USA). The Kalamazoo spill occurred a couple of years ago and they’re still cleaning up the mess.

Q: Do supertankers loaded with oil pose a danger to BC’s coastline and the Pacific ecosystem?
A: Have you watched ‘Dead Ahead: The Exxon Valdez Disaster’? If you haven’t already watched it, look for it on HBO Canada.

Over six thousand (6,000) well-intentioned, well-motivated people work for Enbridge and I have absolutely no doubt that they are doing everything possible to prevent and mitigate an environmental disaster. That said, Enbridge exists to make money for their shareholders and it does so by working hand in hand with multinational oil and gas corporations.

Questions:

  • do you think the Northern Gateway Pipelines will experience spills
  • do you think we’ll see 270 and 350 meter long supertankers leaking massive volumes of heavy crude oil just off the BC coastline
  • why isn’t more money from oil sands profits being channeled into green technologies here in Canada
  • why aren’t we refining heavy crude here in Canada
  • why is Canada still importing over forty percent (40%) of the oil we use
  • and finally, why are we squandering Canada’s bountiful natural resources to fuel the development of Pacific nations who see us as their competition?

“First, we outsourced our manufacturing jobs and helped to make China rich. Now were planning to send China more and more of our natural resources. The Chinese must think we’re idiots.”

It certainly appears that the Harper Government imagines that its mandate is to do the bidding of Big Oil. Their pro-oil, anti-environment playbook makes me shudder.

I’m convinced that Tom Mulcair and the NDP are on the right track, so there is hope.

Related posts:

  1. The Enbridge Northern Pipeline
  2. Enbridge Athabasca Pipeline Leak
  3. Red Deer River Oil Deluge
  4. Dirtiest Oil on Earth Video

Related article:

  1. Enbridge slammed for ‘Keystone Kops’ response to Michigan spill
  2. It’s More than a Pipeline
  3. Enbridge faces $3.7-million penalty for Michigan oil spill