Ontario/Quebec-New England Tar Sands Pipeline Hits Strong Opposition
The Canadian National Energy Board today closed public input on the proposed Line 9 Reversal Phase I tar sands pipeline project after recording more than 41,000 citizen comments in opposition. A coalition of 11 groups submitted the comments focused on the environmental and public health dangers presented by the tar sands project and the need for a comprehensive environmental and public safety review.
The National Energy Board, the Canadian federal agency that oversees permitting interprovincial pipelines, is reviewing the Enbridge pipeline company’s proposal to reverse the flow direction of a portion of its aging 62-year-old pipeline to move tar sands crude approximately 125 miles from Sarnia to the Westover Oil Terminal, outside of Hamilton, Ontario.
The project is criticized by the groups as an effort by the company to build the shelved Trailbreaker tar sands pipeline in segments to avoid comprehensive environmental review. In 2008, Enbridge announced its “Trailbreaker” pipeline proposal to move tar sands crude 750 miles from mining operations in Alberta through Ontario and Quebec and across New England to Portland, Maine. There the crude would be loaded onto tankers for export to refineries on the East Coast or overseas. The company put Trailbreaker on hold in 2009.
As recently as October 2011, pipeline companies discussed the Trailbreaker plan in the press. However, Enbridge now denies that this aptly named “Phase 1” reversal is part of the larger Trailbreaker project.
The National Energy Board can order an investigation of the full environmental impact of the larger project, including the safety impacts of tar sands pipeline to the environment, waterways and communities, and climate pollution from tar sands.
“Enbridge is breaking their dangerous Trailbreaker tar sands pipeline into smaller pieces,” said Michael Brune, Sierra Club executive director. “But the public isn’t fooled. They've spoken up loud and clear to keep this toxic nightmare out of Eastern Canada and New England.”
“The public deserves to know the real plan about tar sands coming to their backyard,” said Danielle Droitsch, director Canada Project, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). “Tar sands destroys the Boreal forest and pumps significant amounts of carbon pollution into the atmosphere while tar sands pipelines puts Canadian and American waterways and communities at risk.”
“It is highly risky to pipe the world’s dirtiest source of oil across Maine, along Sebago Lake to Portland Harbor and Casco Bay,” said Dylan Voorhees, clean energy project director for the Natural Resources Council of Maine. “The pipeline would threaten Sebago Lake, which supplies drinking water to more than 15 percent of Maine people.”
“Importing dirty, high carbon tar sands crude into this region runs directly counter to decades of concerted efforts by Maine and the other New England states to reduce carbon pollution," said Beth Nagusky, Maine director for ENE (Environment Northeast). “Policies such as the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, Renewable Portfolio Standards, and Clean Fuels Standard discourage use of high carbon fuels such as tar sands.”
"The Trailbreaker project would use an old U.S. pipeline built in 1950 that cuts through mile after mile of pristine rivers, lakes and open spaces. The higher temperatures and pressures needed to move tar sands through the pipeline would significantly increase the risk of the pipeline leaking or rupturing. The effects could be devastating to the Androscoggin River, Sebago Lake and Casco Bay," said Environment Maine Director Emily Figdor.
More information on the Trailbreaker pipeline proposal is available in a factsheet linked here.
Groups working on both sides of the border to alert citizens of the dangers of tar sands pipelines are: 350.org, Conservation Law Foundation, Environmental Defence Canada, Environment Maine, ENE (Environment Northeast), Équiterre, Friends of the Earth, Natural Resources Council of Maine, Natural Resources Defense Council, National Wildlife Federation, Northeast Environmental Defense and Sierra Club.
For more information, click here.
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It's going to be back-to-school time soon, but will children go into the classrooms?
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) thinks so, but only as long as safety measures are in place.
Keeping Schools Safe<p>What will safer schools look like?</p><p>In a <a href="https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/2766822" target="_blank">JAMA article</a> published last month, <a href="https://www.jhsph.edu/faculty/directory/profile/1781/joshua-m-sharfstein" target="_blank">Dr. Joshua Sharfstein</a>, a pediatrician and professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, outlined suggestions — many of which are similar to AAP's.</p><p>Remote learning protocols must stay in place, especially as some schools stagger home and in-building learning. If another shutdown needs to occur, children will rely on distance learning completely, so it must be easy to switch to, he said.</p><p>He suggested giving parents a daily checklist to document their child's health. Kids should be screened quickly on arrival and be given hygiene supplies. Maintenance staff should use appropriate PPE and have regular cleaning schedules. A notification system should be in place if a case is identified, Sharfstein recommended.</p><p><a href="https://www.albany.edu/rockefeller/faculty/erika-martin" target="_blank">Erika Martin</a>, PhD, an associate professor of public administration and policy at University at Albany, said nutrition assistance and health services should be included. She called for tutoring programs with virtual options as well as technology access.</p>
Supporting Staff<p>Teachers and staff will be affected by safeguarding measures, noted <a href="https://directory.sph.umn.edu/bio/sph-a-z/rachel-widome" target="_blank">Rachel Widome</a>, PhD, an associate professor of epidemiology and community health at University of Minnesota.</p><p>"In order for all of the in-school precautions to work well, we'll be asking a lot of teachers and staff," Widome told Healthline. In addition to their usual workload, they'll now be asked to monitor mask-wearing, ensure children are keeping distance, and be aware of any symptoms.</p><p>Along with Sharfstein, Widome called for an increase in financial support. More employees will likely be required so teachers and staff members can keep up with the added demands.</p>
Should Kids Go Back?<p>While these guidelines may help get some schools to reopen, many people don't think children should go back to school over fears they could contract the disease and spread it to other vulnerable family members like grandparents, infant siblings, or their parents.</p><p>In a <a href="https://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2020/07/08/peds.2020-004879" target="_blank">Pediatrics</a> commentary, <a href="https://www.md.com/doctor/william-raszka-md" target="_blank">Dr. William V. Raszka, Jr.</a>, an infectious disease specialist at The University of Vermont Medical Center, argued that schools should open because school-aged children are far less important drivers of COVID-19 than adults.</p><p>But he says the risk and benefit is not equal among all students ages 5 to 18.</p><p>"Elementary schools are arguably higher priority for face-to-face schooling, since younger children are at lower risk for infection and transmission, and since parental supervision of younger children's distance learning may be particularly challenging," added Sorensen, who penned a <a href="https://jamanetwork.com/channels/health-forum/fullarticle/2767411" target="_blank">June article in JAMA</a> with reopening tips. "That means middle and high schools are more likely to emphasize distance learning."</p><p>Specific student populations, such as special education students and students with disabilities, would also benefit greatly from more time spent in face-to-face environments, Sorensen said.</p>
What Parents Can Do<p>Parents should ask for and receive frequent updates from schools about plans for the fall. They should also be informed about plans if and when COVID infections are identified, Sharfstein said.</p><p>"I'd like to see parents investing now, during the summer, in doing things that can slow and stop the spread of the virus in their communities," Widome said.</p><p>"Now is a good time for kids to practice wearing masks and get used to them as they may be wearing them for longer stretches if school starts up in person," Widome suggested.</p><p>She recommends parents try different mask designs and materials to see what children are more comfortable wearing.</p><p>"If you are using cloth face coverings, it's good to have extras on hand," Widome added.</p><p>Parents should model healthy behavior at home and while out in public — another thing that could affect how well children adapt to reopening practices, Sorensen said.</p><p>"Children may want to know more about face coverings," added <a href="https://www.linkedin.com/in/leescott/" target="_blank">Lee Scott</a>, chairwoman of the Educational Advisory Board at <a href="https://www.goddardschool.com/" target="_blank">The Goddard School</a>. "Dramatic play, such as creating or wearing a face covering, may help some children adjust to this concept." Schools can also show children photos of what faculty members look like in their masks so the students are familiar with that appearance.</p><p>Johns Hopkins University recently released its eSchool+ Initiative, a slew of resources surrounding education during the pandemic. These include a <a href="https://equityschoolplus.jhu.edu/reopening-checklist/" target="_blank">checklist for administrators</a>, report on <a href="https://equityschoolplus.jhu.edu/ethics-of-reopening/" target="_blank">ethical considerations</a>, and a tracker of <a href="https://equityschoolplus.jhu.edu/reopening-policy-tracker/" target="_blank">state and local reopening plans</a>.</p>
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