The Canadian government and TransCanada Corp. are actively promoting plans for the “Energy East” pipeline that would carry up to 850,000 barrels of crude per day, including tar sands, from Alberta to Eastern markets. The $12 billion, 4,400 kilometer pipeline would lead to massive tanker exports from the Atlantic coast to send crude to the much larger and more profitable markets of India, China, and Europe. The 55-year-old Mainline natural gas pipeline would be converted to transport oil between Saskatchewan and Quebec and connected with new pipeline in the west to Empress, Alberta, and in the east to Quebec City and Saint John, New Brunswick.
Disastrous pipeline spills in Kalamazoo, Michigan, and Mayflower, Arkansas, highlight the dangers of shipping tar sands crude using an older pipeline not originally built for carrying tar sands oil. The filthy tar sand export pipeline would pose serious threats to local water supplies, communities, and coastal waters. It would promote expansion of the tar sands that have left contaminated water, land, and air for nearby communities and stand in the way of the alternative energy future we need. The government of Quebec, where memories of a crude oil rail crash in Lac-Mégantic that killed 47 are still fresh, has yet to say if it will support the project, and there lies the best hope of stopping the scheme.
Many environmentalists oppose it for the same reason they are seeking to block Northern Gateway and Keystone XL, as an effort to blunt expansion in the oil sands and prevent a major increase in greenhouse gas emissions. Critics in Saint John are asking whether it is worth the risk from pipeline spills and increased tanker traffic in the ecologically important Bay of Fundy. Pipelines are easily corroded by tar sands crude, and there is a “high risk” TransCanada’s pipeline will rupture because of cracking and corrosion. The pipeline would bring a few thousand temporary jobs, and only twenty permanent ones, while assuring abrupt climate change.
Proposed pipelines to Canada’s West Coast have faced delays due to objections by First Nations groups and environmentalists (Ecological Internet was the first to campaign internationally for its successful delay), while the Keystone XL pipeline to Texas has been awaiting U.S. State Department approval for five years after massive protests. Opposition has quickly mounted to the Eastern pipeline tar sand route as well. The Assembly of First Nations’ Chiefs in New Brunswick recently announced they “will avail themselves of any means necessary, legal or otherwise” if Energy East threatens their treaty rights or the environment. The Council of Canadians has unveiled a nation-wide campaign to stop the Energy East pipeline; we seek to help internationalize this campaign.
Alberta’s oil companies are sitting on top of rising but landlocked bitumen production. Thus the frantic drive for an eastern ocean route is not about the needs of ordinary Canadians: it’s an export plan to serve the needs of corporate bottom lines. When this pipeline spills – and it will, because of the higher pressure and extra chemicals required to dilute and ship the heavy tar sands viscous slurry - the spills are harder to clean up, and also cause more damage, as this kind of oil is known to sink and not float. Once the crude reaches the coast, it will fetch higher prices on the world market and go to the top bidders. The benefits will be captured by the oil companies; the risks will be carried by everyone else.
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Ecocidal Tar Sands Filth
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