I urge you to read again Rex Weyler’s blog on the Common Sense Canadian on the consequences of a bitumen spill in Vancouver Harbour. And “consequences” should very much on our minds, front and centre.
We are talking three pipelines and two tanker routes.
For the Northern Gateway project we have two pipelines. The reason is that bitumen, the Tar Sands gunk, is too thick to transfer and must have what they call “condensate” mixed in to move it. This natural gas addition does nothing to reduce the damage if there’s a leak or a rupture. Thus Enbridge takes the mixture, known as diluted bitumen (Dilbit), to Kitimat while pumping “condensate” imported by tanker to the Tar Sands by a second pipeline. This highly toxic Dilbit substance will move in huge tankers down what is probably the most dangerous coastline in the world.
The other pipeline is the old Trans Mountain pipeline now used by Kinder Morgan company (a clone of the disgraced Enron) and, if their latest application is accepted, will be twinning that line, thereby increasing their shipping capacity from current levels of 300,000 barrels a day to 850,000 barrels a day, with a tanker a day going through the treacherous Second Narrows.
It is not my intention here to discuss the risks involved in these three pipelines and two tanker routes – there is no need to because ruptures and spills are a lead pipe certainty. The only issue is clean-up.
Anthony Swift writes for Switchboard, which is the staff blog of the Natural Resources Defense Council, the US’s most effective environmental group. Here’s what he has to say on clean-up:
Raw tar sands bitumen is nearly solid at room temperature and must be diluted with toxic natural gas liquids to create the thick sludge that travels in high pressure pipelines. This sludge is between fifty and seventy times as thick as conventional crude oil. When spilled, the light natural gas liquid in the tar sands vaporizes, creating a toxic flammable gas that poses a health hazard to emergency responders and nearby landowners. The bitumen, which is heavier than water, sinks into rivers and mixes with sediments. Bitumen contains significantly more heavy metals than conventional crudes and does not biodegrade. (emphasis mine)
This is an oversimplification but this may help – with ordinary crude, a process called “rafting” is used, whereby the spilled crude oil is pushed into a smaller area then removed. Even then, as the Exxon Valdez demonstrated, only a relatively small proportion of the spill can be cleaned up. Unfortunately bitumen sinks, so rafting is of no use.
It’s like a clear cut without reforestation. It’s death.
The bottom line is this: spills or ruptures are certain and the damage immense and all but impossible to clean up.
This is what Prime Minister Harper wants to have approved quickly and his poodle, Premier Clark, because she needs Harper’s generosity over the HST mess.
We simply cannot let these catastrophes happen to us.