I wrote the following op-ed article, which was published in my community’s newspaper and in regional online news magazines. The biggest regional newspaper, Thunder Bay’s The Chronicle Journal, also published it, but deleted the paragraphs which I have boldfaced for you – an interesting case of media censorship . . .
TransCanada’s Energy East Pipeline is holding information centres in our region. I attended the one in Geraldton on September 26th. I studied the maps and the poster boards, and collected the literature. I did not feel sufficiently prepared at that time to ask questions.
Now I have my questions ready.
1. Will the bulk of the crude oil (diluted bitumen) stay in Canada to provide jobs in refining and distribution?
2. Will the project guarantee cheaper gasoline for Canadian consumers?
3. Will a very old gas pipeline, converted to carry oil, be as safe as a new oil pipeline constructed with the latest technology?
4. Will the leak detection system react immediately to shut off the flow of oil when a leak occurs?*
5. Will it be impossible for thousands of barrels to be spilled before there is a mitigation response?
6. Will the toxic chemicals in diluted bitumen add nothing to the environmental risk?
7. Will a diluted bitumen spill be as easy to clean up as a conventional oil spill?
8. Will the project put a cap on daily production in the Alberta tar sands?
9. Will the project create no concern that markets in Central and Eastern Canada will undergo price hikes for their natural gas supply?
10. Will the project create a significant number permanent pipeline jobs in NWO, say, 50?**
If a representative of Energy East were to answer ‘yes” to any of these questions, I would challenge his honesty. I am now confident that the honest answer to each question is “no”.
If you ask the question, and you get the answer “yes”, ask for evidence. I suspect that you will encounter a lot of hemming and hawing and even misdirection.
For example, the question about shut-off valves: * Energy East Pipeline proposes a shut-off valve every 30 kilometres. Since oil flows only one way, there is the potential for 30 kilometres of pipeline to dump its burden of oil into an ecosystem, such as an aquifer, a wetland, or a river. I will divulge my self-interest here: our home gets its water from an aquifer that the existing pipeline crosses just 3 klicks away. That water trickles down into our well. Even minor contamination will devastate our lifestyle and property value.
Thirty kilometres is about the distance from Geraldton to Longlac. Imagine that quantity of toxic crude being spilled in your backyard. And remember this fact: every pipeline leaks.
Leak detection systems are still as crude as the oil. Enbridge Inc.’s gigantic spill of tar sands crude in the Kalamazoo River three years ago went undetected for 17 hours. The spill may never be completely cleaned up.
Two years ago, sharp-eyed Aboriginal hunters spotted a leak in an Enbridge pipeline near Norman Wells, NWT, which the company later determined would “not likely exceed” 1500 barrels. It leaked from “a pinhole”, a size its detection system could not detect. Since then there have been more leaks, more repairs, prompting an Aboriginal chief to describe the process as “putting a Band-Aid on this garden hose”.
How much oil is 1500 barrels? It is 63,000 U.S. gallons. It is 238,470 litres. And that was a minor leak.
A credible American report states that 19 out of 20 spills are not detected in a timely fashion.
** As for job creation, sure, some short-term jobs are bound to be created. Everyone’s heard of TransCanada’s Keystone XL project. U.S. President Obama and the State Department recently claimed that the proposed Keystone XL pipeline extension, 2700 kilometres long, might create 50 permanent jobs. TransCanada’s Energy East Pipeline proposes to use 3000 kilometres of existing pipeline. Do the math for the number of NWO jobs.
I trust these questions will arm you sufficiently to face up to the next Energy East representative that you meet. Good luck in eliciting truth from power.