Canadian Tar Sands

Obama Punts On Keystone Pipeline published 4-18-2014

A decision to give executive agencies more time to review plans for the controversial pipeline could push a final decision to after the midterm elections

President Barack Obama gestures as he speaks at Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network’s conference in New York, April 11, 2014 (Carolyn Kaster—AP)

The Obama Administration is extending its review of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline that has become an election-year minefield.

The State Department said Friday that while the public comment period will not be extended, executive agencies need more time to review the submitted comments as well as consider a Nebraska court case surrounding the pipeline. The indefinite extension could put off a decision on the pipeline, which would carry crude oil from Canadian tar sands to American refineries, until after November’s midterm elections.

“On April 18, 2014, the Department of State notified the eight federal agencies specified in Executive Order 13337 we will provide more time for the submission of their views on the proposed Keystone Pipeline Project,” the department said in a statement. “Agencies need additional time based on the uncertainty created by the on-going litigation in the Nebraska Supreme Court which could ultimately affect the pipeline route in that state. In addition, during this time we will review and appropriately consider the unprecedented number of new public comments, approximately 2.5 million, received during the public comment period that closed on March 7, 2014.

“The Permit process will conclude once factors that have a significant impact on determining the national interest of the proposed project have been evaluated and appropriately reflected in the decision documents,” the State Department statement continued. “The Department will give the agencies sufficient time to submit their views.”

The pipeline has become a focus of Republican critics of the Obama Administration’s regulatory process. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell blasted the White House Friday after news of the decision broke.

Read more at TIME

Scientists Find 7,300-Mile Mercury Contamination ‘Bullseye’ Around Canadian Tar Sands published 12-30-2013

Oilsands development in northern Alberta, Canada.

Just one week after Al Jazeera discovered that regulatory responsibility for Alberta, Canada’s controversial tar sands would be handed over to a fossil-fuel funded corporation, federal scientists have found that the area’s viscous petroleum deposits are surrounded by a nearly 7,500-square-mile ring of mercury.

Canadian government scientists have found that levels of mercury — a potent neurotoxin which has been found to cause severe birth defects and brain damage — around the region’s vast tar sand operations are up to 16 times higher than regular levels for the region. The findings, presented by Environment Canada researcher Jane Kirk at an international toxicology conference, showed that the 7,500 miles contaminated are “currently impacted by airborne Hg (mercury) emissions originating from oilsands developments.”

Read more at ThinkProgress

Beyond Keystone XL: Why One Maine Town Is On The Front Lines Of The Battle Against Tar Sands
published 11-4-2013

A tanker offloads oil into the Portland-Montreal Pipeline alongside South Portland, Maine’s Bug Light Park.

SOUTH PORTLAND, MAINE — On Tuesday, approximately 25,000 residents of South Portland will decide the future of what could soon become America’s next tar sands pipeline. Not Keystone XL; the Portland-Montreal Pipeline.

In 1941, as Germany choked off Canada’s fuel supply during the early stages of World War II, the U.S. opened a pipeline to allow imported crude to flow from Maine to Montreal. Today, that same pipeline has made Portland the second biggest oil port on the eastern seaboard. Tankers steam into Casco Bay almost daily, navigating among lobster buoys and kayakers, and dwarfing the fishing boats that once lined the waterfront of Maine’s largest city.

But as natural gas has begun to replace heating oil in the northeast, and as Canada has moved aggressively to tap the Alberta tar sands, demand for imported oil is declining. And the pipeline’s owners and operators smell a new source of business: reversing the pipeline’s flow to send tar sands to Maine for export.

But as natural gas has begun to replace heating oil in the northeast, and as Canada has moved aggressively to tap the Alberta tar sands, demand for imported oil is declining. And the pipeline’s owners and operators smell a new source of business: reversing the pipeline’s flow to send tar sands to Maine for export.

Read more at ThinkProgress

Koch Pipeline Spills 400 Barrels Of Crude Oil In Texas published 10-30-2013

17,000 gallons of crude oil spilled from an eight-inch pipeline owned by Koch Pipeline Company on Tuesday, the Railroad Commission of Texas reported Wednesday.

The spill impacted a rural area and two livestock ponds near Smithville and was discovered on a routine aerial inspection, according to the Austin American-Statesman.

Details are scarce regarding the cause of the spill and cleanup measures underway but, as UPI reported, “Koch Pipeline Co. said it notified the appropriate federal and state regulators but had no estimated time for repairs. Neither Koch nor the Texas Railroad Commission had a public statement about the incident.”

Read more at ThinkProgress

Remember The Tar Sands Leaks That No One Knew How To Stop In July? They’re Still Leaking. published 9-25-2013

CREDIT: Global News

Tar sands oil that began leaking more than four months ago in northern Alberta is still bubbling to the earth’s surface, an environmental disaster that has prompted the Alberta government to intervene.

The government has ordered Canadian Natural Resources Ltd., the company in charge of the leaking Primrose tar sands operation, to drain two-thirds of a 131-acre lake on the property in an attempt to plug one fissure, located directly below the lake, which has been spilling tar sands oil into the lake over the four months. The order, according to CNRL, will allow the company to identify the exact location of the leak and attempt to halt it. The company’s plan to stop the other three leaks on the site is unknown, though CNRL says the seepage rate from all four leak sites has been reduced to fewer than 20 barrels a day.

The first of the four ongoing leaks at the Primrose site was reported May 20, and may well have started leaking long before that. As of September 11, the leaks have spilled more than 403,900 gallons — or about 9,617 barrels — of oily bitumen into the surrounding boreal forest and muskeg, the acidic, marshy soil found in the forest. In addition, 14,491 metric tons — 31,947,188 pounds — of “impacted soils” have been removed from the site, along with 515 cubic meters — 18,151 cubic feet — of oily vegetation. Two beavers, 49 birds, 105 amphibians and 46 small mammals have been killed as a result of the spill, according to the Alberta Energy Regulator.

CREDIT: ED KAISER/EDMONTON JOURNAL

Read more at ThinkProgress

Corroding Our Democracy: Canada Silences Scientists, Targets Environmentalists in Tar Sands Push | Democracy Now! published 9-24-2013

Five years ago this month, the firm TransCanada submitted a permit request to build the Keystone XL oil pipeline, which would bring tar sands oil from Canada to refineries on the Gulf Coast. The project has sparked one of the nation’s most contentious environmental battles in decades. The Obama administration initially appeared ready to approve Keystone XL, but an unprecedented wave of activism from environmentalists and residents of the states along its path has forced several delays. Among those pressuring Obama for Keystone XL’s approval is the Canadian government, which recently offered a greater pledge of reduced carbon emissions if the pipeline is built. We’re joined by one of Canada’s leading environmental activists, Tzeporah Berman, who has campaigned for two decades around clean energy and is the former co-director of Greenpeace International’s Climate Unit. She is now focused on stopping tar sands extraction as a member of the steering committee for the Tar Sands Solutions Network. Berman is also the co-founder of ForestEthics and is the author of the book “This Crazy Time: Living Our Environmental Challenge.” Berman discusses how the Canadian government is muzzling scientists speaking out on global warming, quickly changing environmental laws, and why she believes the push for tar sands extraction has created a “perfect storm” of grassroots activism bringing together environmentalists, indigenous communities and rural landowners.

Read more at Democracy Now!

Major Tarsands Spill in Arkansas | Common Dreams published 3-31-2013

A man removes belongings from a home where an underground crude oil pipeline ruptured in a subdivision in Mayflower,Arkansas March 30, 2013. (Rick McFarland/Arkansas Democrat-Gazette)

Exxon Mobil on Sunday continued to try to cleanup a major pipeline spill that poured thousands of barrels of heavy Canadian crude into a suburban Arkansas neighborhood Friday as opponents of tar sands oil development pointed to the incident as another reason not to build the Keystone XL line.

The 20-inch ‘Pegasus’ tar sands pipeline ruptured late Friday near Mayflower, Arkansas, spilling thousands of barrels of oil in what the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is categorizing as a “major spill.” Faulkner County Judge Allen Dodson said the EPA has estimated the spill at 84,000 gallons.

Read more at Common Dreams.

The Dilbit Disaster: Inside The Biggest Oil Spill You’ve Never Heard Of published 6-26-2012

MARSHALL, Mich.—An acrid stench had already enveloped John LaForges five-bedroom house when he opened the door just after 6 a.m. on July 26, 2010. By the time the building contractor hurried the few feet to the refuge of his Dodge Ram pickup, his throat was stinging and his head was throbbing.

LaForge was at work excavating a basement when his wife called a couple of hours later. The odor had become even more sickening, Lorraine told him. And a fire truck was parked in front of their house, where Talmadge Creek rippled toward the Kalamazoo River.

LaForge headed home. By the time he arrived, the stink was so intense that he could barely keep his breakfast down.

Something else was wrong, too.

Water from the usually tame creek had inundated his yard, the way it often did after heavy rains. But this time a black goo coated swaths of his golf course-green grass. It stopped just 10 feet from the metal cap that marked his drinking water well. Walking on the tarry mess was like stepping on chewing gum.

LaForge said he was stooped over the creek, looking for the source of the gunk, when two men in a white truck marked Enbridge pulled up just before 10 a.m. One rushed to LaForge’s open front door and disappeared inside with an air-monitoring instrument.

The man emerged less than a minute later, and uttered the words that still haunt LaForge today: It’s not safe to be here. You’re going to have to leave your house. Now.

John and Lorraine LaForge, their grown daughter and one of the three grandchildren living with them at the time piled into the pickup and their minivan as fast as they could, given Lorraine’s health problems. They didn’t pause to grab toys for the baby or extra clothes for the two children at preschool. They didn’t even lock up the house.

Within a half hour, they had checked into two rooms at a Holiday Inn Express, which the family of six would call home for the next 61 days.

Their lives had been turned upside down by the first major spill of Canadian diluted bitumen [2] in a U.S. river. Diluted bitumen is the same type of oil that could someday be carried by the much-debated Keystone XL pipeline [3]. If that project is approved, the section that runs through Nebraska will cross the Ogallala aquifer, which supplies drinking water for eight states as well as 30 percent of the nation’s irrigation water.

“People don’t realize how your life can change overnight,” LaForge told an InsideClimate News reporter as they drove slowly past his empty house in November 2011. “It has been devastating.”

* * * *

The spill happened in Marshall, a community of 7,400 in southwestern Michigan. At least 1 million gallons of oil blackened more than two miles of Talmadge Creek and almost 36 miles of the Kalamazoo River, and oil is still showing up 23 months later, as the cleanup continues. About 150 families have been permanently relocated and most of the tainted stretch of river between Marshall and Kalamazoo remained closed to the public until June 21 [4].

The accident was triggered by a six-and-a-half foot tear in 6B, a 30-inch carbon steel pipeline operated by Enbridge Energy Partners, the U.S. branch of Enbridge Inc., Canada’s largest transporter of crude oil. With Enbridge’s costs already totaling more than $765 million [5], it is the most expensive oil pipeline spill since the U.S. government began keeping records in 1968. An independent federal agency, the National Transportation Safety Board, is investigating the accident [6], and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has launched criminal and civil probes.

Despite the scope of the damage, the Enbridge spill hasn’t attracted much national attention, perhaps because it occurred just 10 days after oil stopped spewing from BP’s Macondo well in the Gulf of Mexico, which had ruptured three months earlier. Early reports about the Enbridge spill also downplayed its seriousness. Just about everybody, including the EPA officials who rushed to Marshall, expected the mess to be cleaned up in a couple of months.

What the EPA didn’t know then, however, was that 6B was carrying bitumen, the dirtiest, stickiest oil on the market.

Read more at InsideClimate News.

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