A new twin pipeline system between Edmonton, Alberta and a new marine terminal in Kitimat, British Columbia (B.C.) would carry tar sands oil by pipeline across B.C., to be loaded onto supertankers at an ocean terminal, and onward to Asia. Canadian tar sands production would expand by 30% - escalating the terrible ecological impacts upon the Canadian boreal forests and its water, carbon and ecosystems. The pipeline would skirt the northern edge of the Great Bear temperate rainforest – threatening the home of the revered all-white spirit bear. There will be severe ecological impacts of the pipeline construction as well – including erosion, forest fragmentation, riparian habitat damage, and near certain leaks. While operational a serious pipeline break could occur at any time – destroying any one of the approximately 1,000 pristine streams, rivers, lakes, and natural wild salmon spawning grounds to be crossed. Tar sand production and use is highly carbon intensive, and development of this and other filthy synthetic fossil fuels (and coal) may well push the planet into abrupt and runaway climate change.
The Enbridge Gateway Pipeline project is one of five pipelines, new and expansions, proposed across Northern B.C. potentially transporting up to 700,000 barrels of oil per day. The pipelines go through B.C.'s sensitive Pacific North Coast, piercing the heart of the greater Pacific coast ecosystem. It skirts - yet seriously impacting nonetheless - the Great Bear Rainforest ecosystem and its spirit bear populations. Some 1500 massive supertankers will carry tar sands oil to Asia annually, passing through the narrow and treacherous, yet fragile and pristine, northwest coast passageways. One mishap – such as Enbridge’s recent fouling by broken pipeline of an important Michigan river, or BP’s Gulf Spill – will bring disastrous results and long-term loss of marine life and sensitive coastal ecosystems. Enbridge has a history of pipeline problems, including leaks and regulatory violations.
First Nations' rights are being violated; and their and other rural communities, as well as the wild salmon upon which they depend, would be at risk from a pipeline or oil tanker spill. Yet there is reason for hope as resistance is growing. B.C.’s municipalities recently passed a resolution opposing the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline, building on an earlier declaration by several First Nations. Many Indigenous peoples including nearly 50 communities adamantly oppose the project, as well as political leaders and environmental organizations from around the globe. The First Nations peoples vow to stop the pipeline coming through their lands and to blockade tankers in their fishing boats if they have to. And it is clear they do not stand alone. There is however reason to be concerned that foundation fed, big green groups will make a behind door compromise allowing the project to proceed slightly greenwashed, as has happened with boreal and Great Bear temperate rainforest logging in the past. This must not be allowed to happen, as the world has better energy choices than dirty tar sands oil. What we need is greater efficiency and conservation, and the development of critical renewable and energy-saving technologies and policies – not another tar sands oil pipeline.
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The Spirit Bear - all-white kermode/black bear sub-species - would find its temperate rainforest homes at risk. "Anyone who tells you there will be no accidents or major spills as a result of this pipeline going through is either unbelievably stupid or deliberately lying to you," says noted B.C. environmentalist David Suzuki.
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