Canadians you will need to brush up on those resume writing skills and sharpen your pencils because it is time to fill out your 10-page applications to get permission to send in your comments about another oil pipeline.
And as of Monday, April 15th, you have less than five days left of the 14 days the National Energy Board (NEB) allows to do it. The deadline is noon on April 19th.
The permission-to-comment application consists of 10 pages of essay-style questions that should be submitted with a resume and references to backup your claim that you have a right to participate in the Line 9 pipeline public hearings.
Enbridge's 37-old Line 9 is being reversed to pump 300,000 bpd (barrels per day) of oil and bitumen from Alberta's tar sands through southern Ontario and Quebec.
“Since when does someone’s resume determine if they have the right to be concerned about what’s happening in their home community?” asked Keith Stewart of Greenpeace Canada.
If only this were milk there would be no need to cry.
Cleanup efforts are currently underway in four separate oil spills that have occurred in the last ten days.
On March 27th, a train carrying Canadian tar sands dilbit jumped the rails in rural Minnesota spilling an estimated 30,000 gallons of black gold onto the countryside.
Two days later a pipeline ruptured in the town of Mayflower, Arkansas, sending a river of Albertan tar sands crude gurgling down residential streets. And news is just breaking about a Shell oil spill that occurred the same day in Texas that dumped an estimated 700 barrels, including at least 60 barrels of oil into a waterway that leads to the Gulf of Mexico (stay tuned for more on that).
This week a Canadian Pacific freight train loaded with oil derailed, spilling its cargo over the Northwest Ontario countryside. Originally reported as a leak of 600 liters, the CBC reported on Thursday that the estimated volume of the spill has increased to 63,000 liters.
The accelerating expansion of Alberta’s tar sands has North America’s current pipeline infrastructure maxed out and, as a result, oil companies have been searching for an alternative way to move their product to market. As lobbying efforts around the stymied Keystone XL and Northern Gateway pipelines intensify, oil companies have been quietly loading their toxic cargo onto freight trains.
A tax loophole exempting tar sands pipeline operators from paying an eight-cent tax per barrel of oil they transport in the US is costing the federal Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund millions of dollars every year. With expected increases in tar sands oil production over the next five years, this loophole may have deprived US citizens of $400-million dollars worth of critical oil-spill protection funds come 2017.
According to a report by the US Natural Resources Committee the federal government pays for immediate oil-spill response from the Liability Trust Fund which is supported by an excise tax on all crude oil and gas products in the US.
But in 2011 the Internal Revenue Service exempted tar sands oil from the tax, saying the substance did not fit the characterization of crude oil.
This exemption has come under scrutiny this week after Exxon Mobil's Pegasus pipeline ruptured in Mayflower, Arkansas, releasing 300,000 litres of tar sands oil and water into a residential neighbourhood and surrounding wetlands. Because the line carried tar sands-derived oil from Alberta, Exxon was exempt from paying into the spill liability fund for the corrosive fuel's potential cleanup.
What do we know about dilbit? Since coming on the scene, the mixture of tar sands crude and a lighter substance such as natural gas condensate has been a matter of much speculation. How does it behave in pipelines? Does it float in water or sink?
Now, Canadian oil producers are saying that diluted bitumen (dilbit) has gotten a bad name. They are seeking clean up its image with an industry-funded report claiming that the tar sand mixture is no more dangerous to pipelines than some conventional crude oil.
The report, entitled “Dilbit Corrosivity,” was prepared by UK’s Penspen Group for the Canadian Energy Pipeline Association (CEPA). It seeks to debunk arguments like those made at the hearings on the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline, that dilbit’s high viscosity, acidity, and level of sediments could cause corrosion that would leave the areas around pipelines more vulnerable to spills. It argues that, because dilbit is no more corrosive than other forms of heavy crude, no special plans need to be made to prevent spills.
“Some of the literature is ill-informed and wrong: both Dilbit and Synbit in a crude oil transmission pipeline environment is no more corrosive than comparable heavy sour crudes and in many cases may be less corrosive,” it reads.
“Consequently, there are no significant additional implications for corrosion control in a pipeline carrying Dilbit and Synbit as part of pipeline integrity management over and above what is already standard practice.”
Anthony Swift, an attorney with the National Resource Defense Council (NRDC) disagrees with this characterization. He argues that Penspen’s findings are not new and describes the CEPA report as a “rehash of a number of flawed government and industry studies intended to promote tar sands.”
The government of Alberta’s continued reliance on the tar sands as the province’s main economic driver has put Premier Alison Redford in a very awkward position recently. With the market for foreign oil drying up in the US, her government is facing a $6 billion budget shortfall. For the first time in many years, Alberta is being forced to reach out for a little help from its neighbours, but the reception has been chilly.
The trouble began last year, when British Columbia Premier Christy Clark discovered that putting her unqualified support behind Enbridge’s plan to run its Northern Gateway pipeline through the province would constitute political suicide in an election year.
Whatever Clark’s motivations may have been—environmental or political—the result is that now they are in the midst of a struggle that Maclean’s Magazine calls, “the greatest political rivalry since former Newfoundland Premier Danny Williams ordered the Canadian flag removed from every government building in a dispute with the feds over offshore energy royalties.”
“If people don’t speak out there will never be any change,” says the University of Victoria’s award-winning climate scientist Andrew Weaver.
And the need for change in Canada, says Weaver, has never been more pressing.
“We have a crisis in Canada. That crisis is in terms of the development of information and the need for science to inform decision-making. We have replaced that with an ideological approach to decision-making, the selective use of whatever can be found to justify [policy decisions], and the suppression of scientific voices and science itself in terms of informing the development of that policy.”
Thanks to Alberta's tar sands, coal-powered energy production just got cheaper, and dirtier.
That is largely due to an often overlooked byproduct of bitumen upgrading: petroleum coke. The byproduct, commonly referred to as petcoke, is derived from the excess heavy hydrocarbons necessarily processed out of bitumen in the production of lighter liquid fuels like gasoline and diesel. The leftover condensed byproduct, petcoke, bears a striking resemblance to coal, and is being integrated into coal power plants across the US and internationally, contributing a tremendous amount of carbon emissions to the tar sands price tag that has been previously unaccounted for.
That is, until the research group Oil Change International released a research report that calculates the use of petcoke in American energy generation increases the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline's emissions by a staggering 13 percent.