For the past few years 350.org (among many others) has been spearheading a campaign against the expansion of the Keystone XL pipeline that is slated to begin transporting Tar Sands bitumen from Alberta to the Gulf Coast. Last week the latest protest culminated in the arrests as students from 80 colleges across the USA zip-tied their hands to the White House fence. Across the street, on Pennsylvania avenue, students dressed in white splashed with black ink spread a black tarp across the road and lay unmoving in the road representing the toxic damage and death caused by an oil spill.
One could wonder, “What does this concern us? How does a prospective pipeline from western Canada to the southern US affect us, here, in Cornwall?” Well, the Keystone XL is a brand new pipe with new security and spill prevention measures, and while it still will cause significant harm to the environment both in Alberta and globally, we have have a much worse problem right here in Eastern Ontario.
Does anyone remember, the beginning of February 2012, when Enbridge, a Canadian pipeline operator and oil field services company presented the South Stormont Ontario Township Fire & Rescue Department with a giant publicity check for $10,000? South Stormont was not the only recipient; Enbridge spent over $190,000 on PR donations presented to small municipalities and cities along the seaway valley from Toronto to Montreal.
An oil pipeline, line 9b, has been in operation in Eastern Ontario by Enbridge since 1976. It follows the St Lawrence Seaway from Toronto to just north of Kingston, right through the middle of the solar farm on Centennial road in Brockville, along the north side of the 401, less than 500 meters from my parents house outside of Long Sault, across 138 and over the Raisin River as it heads east to Montreal. This pipe was designed for light crude oil and has had 35 incidents recorded in the 38 years it has been in operation.
This pipeline is just 7 years younger than line 6b, another Enbridge pipeline with identical construction, steel type, thickness, liner and size as line 9b, the difference being that line 6b ruptured in 2010 causing the largest on-land oil spill in North American history. The spill in the Kalamazoo river destroyed nearly 40 miles of river, poisoning the water and killing all the life in and along the riverbank. One can no longer swim, fish, boat, or do anything on this section of river, and there are great concerns about the downstream long term effects. The cleanup continues and has nearly topped a billion dollars, double Enbridge’s insurance policy coverage of $575 million
As of less than 24 hours ago, the National Energy Board (NEB) has approved Enbridge’s request to start pumping the same corrosive, hot, sand-filled, high pressure Tar Sands dilbit that caused the 2010 rupture through line 9b. Industry experts have repeatedly warned that they estimate over 90% chance that pumping dilbit through this line will cause a rupture potentially contaminating the drinking water of the entire St Lawrence River Valley.
What would the City of Cornwall leadership do in the worst case event that a spill occurs and a drinking water ban has to be enforced, like in West Virginia about a month ago? Are we prepared to buy all our drinking water from Walmart and similar stores? Hundreds of small towns across the United States that have had their local drinking water supplies destroyed by oil field exploration and extraction are already doing this. Are future generations going to be building water pipelines at extreme cost because there just are no more local sources of clean water?
This is a very difficult problem, but with many viable solutions. Continued reliance on fossil fuels is completely unsustainable, but the energy market is the single most profitable industry on the planet, and those profits drive policy quite strongly. The future is not set. There are so many beautiful solutions, and it’s up to us to take action and demand change for the better for the continued survival of our children and the generations to come.
I know this certainly can be a depressing subject, but for an uplifting, positive view presenting small to medium communities with real-world solutions please see “Carbon nation” in the references.
Nathanael Newton – Cornwall Ontario
To the last drop — Aljazeera documentary on the Canadian Oil Sands
Carbon Nation — Real world positive solutions where communities and landowners are taking action of their own.
Do The Math — 350.org film, Empowering and showing hope
The Thorium dream — Alternative, non-proliferating, low pressure, waste-free nuclear power
Map of pipeline location:
More info on line 9b:
Record of spills:
Current pipeline conditions:
National Energy Board decision:
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