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Sierra Club

There's breaking—and disturbing—news about the Keystone XL pipeline. Big Oil is bringing it back, and with a vengeance.

The Senate may vote as early as this week to force construction of the dirty tar sands oil pipeline—and once again, it's up to you to stop this bill.

Last month, President Obama rejected the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, which TransCanada spent $1.3 million lobbying for in 2011. We knew Big Oil wouldn't give up, and sure enough, they're still at it, using their money to force the pipeline down our throats, thwart the president, and pass this bill.

Email your senators today and tell them to oppose any legislation that would approve the Keystone XL pipeline.

With Big Oil and the lawmakers they've bought and paid for allied against us, we face a tough fight. This bill could pass. But by standing together, we beat their millions in round one, and we can do it again in round two.

It's obvious that Big Oil will do almost anything to buy influence and get their way on Capitol Hill—they have to, since no project as dangerous as Keystone XL could ever pass on the merits alone.

This pipeline would carry the world's dirtiest fossil fuel, tar sands oil, from Canada to Texas, where it would be shipped overseas. To build the pipeline, TransCanada has to seize private land from ranchers and farmers, and then expose what's left to the threat of oil spills and leaks. Clean water, clean air, agriculture, and our shared climate would all be put at risk for what have been greatly exaggerated benefits.

There's no reason the public should sacrifice so much just so Big Oil can increase their already-record profits. We may not have $1.3 million to lobby Congress—but we do have 1.4 million members and supporters like you.

Take thirty seconds to tell Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA) and Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) to put our public health before Big Oil profits. Oppose this and any other attempt to approve the Keystone XL pipeline.

Big Oil is used to getting their way, no matter what that means for the rest of us. But together, we can send a powerful message—write your senators today.

For more information, click here.

Nature Canada

Imagine it—Pollution from tanker traffic. An impossible-to-rule-out oil spill. Destruction of pristine habitat for sea otters, killer whales, puffins, seabirds and even iconic spirit bears.

That’s what’s awaiting British Columbia’s northern coast and hundreds of species of birds, animals and marine life that thrive in this region if we don’t take action right now.

A controversial proposed pipeline would carry oil from the tar sands in Alberta to a port at Kitimat, British Columbia. After travelling nearly 1,170 km through pristine wilderness and First Nations homelands, tar sands oil would be loaded on tankers bound for Pacific markets. To get there, they must first navigate the perilous northern B.C. coast, travelling the same wildlife-filled waters where the Queen of the North ferry sank in 2006. Is this pipeline in the public’s best interest?

If given a go-ahead, the pipeline project would:

  • Fragment the boreal forest, home to birds and other wildlife, including woodland caribou and grizzly bears.
  • Expose the Great Bear Rainforest, home to wolves and the iconic spirit bear, and 30 internationally recognized Important Bird Areas teeming with marine birds, fish and other animals to potential oil spills and pollution from increased tanker traffic.
  • Risk irreversible harm to the livelihoods of many coastal and aboriginal communities.

Canada’s wildlife depends on us to speak up on their behalf and put a stop to the Northern Gateway Pipeline project before it’s too late. Add your voice and send your letter today.

For more information, click here.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Pembina Institute

By Nathan Lemphers

As the news broke on the afternoon of Jan. 18 that the U.S. government had denied the application of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, speculation quickly followed about the future of the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline—a controversial and risky project that would see oilsands crude piped to the craggy northwest coast of British Columbia, then shipped by tanker to overseas markets.

The speculation was no-doubt driven by Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s response to the decision, in which he reiterated Canada’s intentions to find new customers for oilsands outside the U.S. (Harper had, until recently, called the approval of the Keystone XL pipeline a ‘complete no-brainer’ and his government has become a vocal proponent of the Northern Gateway project as well.)

As the pipeline debate on this side of the border shifts to the fate of the Northern Gateway proposal, the U.S. government’s rejection of the Keystone project shows that Canada faces real barriers in getting oilsands to market—and, despite what some pundits say, those barriers are not just political.

Not just an issue of access

Access to markets isn’t the only challenge facing the oilsands. Access to investment capital is a critical component to an industry with incredibly high start-up costs. Imperial Oil’s Kearl Mine is a case in point, with the total budget now ballooning to a record $28.5 billion.

In a 2010 report by the Fraser Institute on barriers to energy development in North America, the authors concluded that uncertainty around environmental regulations is very likely to cause some investors to be cautious about investing in the oilsands.

Businesses thrive when they have a predictable regulatory environment, and the oilsands industry is no different. The heads of companies need to know, for example, what royalties will need to be paid, what labour laws they must consider, and what accounting standards they will be required to follow.

The problem for the oilsands industry is there are many environmental aspects of operations that do not yet have clear regulations, such as tailings management, greenhouse gas emissions, reclamation, species at risk, wetlands and regional planning. This lack of regulation, and the resultant environmental challenges, is the driving factor behind the poor reputation Canada has internationally when it comes to energy development. Meantime, federal-provincial jurisdictional battles add to the lack of clarity.

Rather than constantly playing defense, Canada could proactively address our customers’ concerns about the impacts of oilsands development by improving how environmental issues are regulated. If the federal and Alberta governments could provide more certainty about their expectations of how the oilsands are to be managed environmentally—and ensure those standards are being met—then the oilsands may start to look like a more attractive investment, and a more attractive product.

The Harper government’s efforts to wield the threat of shipping to Asia as a political club against the U.S. is not new—although, following the Jan. 18 surprise decision, the Premier of Alberta also played up the prospects of taking oilsands elsewhere. A steady increase in Chinese demand for oilsands crude in the future is taken as a given among energy circles in Calgary, and to question otherwise is to challenge orthodoxy.

Playing China as an economic trump card appears rather presumptuous, however, given increasing concern that the oilsands are losing fashion in China. And it’s likely the current challenges facing the development of oilsands pipelines are not increasing optimism among potential customers in Beijing.

Compared to what we have to offer in Canada, China has access to higher-quality hydrocarbons from much closer sources. Even the chief energy researcher for a state-owned Chinese oil company agrees—“The oil sands are too costly and too polluting. Gas has a brighter future…Shale gas is much cheaper and cleaner.”

What’s the rush?

The denial of Keystone XL "only will embolden those opposed to Gateway and other new project developments," said Enbridge CEO Pat Daniels. Despite the long faces from some proponents of oilsands pipelines, there’s no rush to push these projects ahead. Alberta will not be landlocked in bitumen for at least another eight years, given industry production forecasts and current pipeline capacity. Moreover, some of the existing pipelines can be twinned or additional pump stations built to increase throughput.

From a capacity perspective, the argument for Gateway in a world without Keystone XL is weak.

Economic arguments in perspective

It is hard to miss the drumbeat of the economists in favour of Gateway these days, most of whom cite the benefits of diversifying export markets. Indeed, many Canadian and foreign-owned oilsands companies stand to benefit from the project.

But while economic diversification on its own is a sound and prudent economic principle, it is critical to consider the broader picture.

The Obama administration considered more than simply the economic aspects of the Keystone XL pipeline. They also listened to and considered the perspectives of a host of Americans that had real concerns about the pipeline and the oil that it would be shipping.

In the same way, the Harper government would be wise to learn from Keystone XL and consider multiple perspectives, including those labeled as ‘radical’. First Nations, British Columbians and environmental organizations are not radical for wanting to have a balanced and credible review process that is informed by more than the private economic interests of a handful of oil companies.

Due public process is critical to making an informed decision. For one thing, the process for Keystone XL showed that energy companies are capable of responding to public concerns and adjusting their plans when required to by a government that takes those concerns seriously.

The Obama administration’s decision to reject the Keystone XL application ought to be a clarion call for the Canadian government to ensure due process is respected for the Gateway hearings. Only by thoroughly examining the risks, along with the benefits, of the proposed Gateway pipeline can the government arrive at a decision that will be in the interest of Canadians.

For more information, click here.

Tar Sands Action

First Nations, whose unceded territory encompasses the entire coastline of British Columbia (B.C.), have formed a united front, banning all exports of tar sands crude oil through their territories, and effectively all of B.C.—whether by Enbridge in the north or Kinder-Morgan in the south.

Several new First Nations signed the Save the Fraser Declaration in a Vancouver, B.C. ceremony, expanding First Nations opposition in western Canada to more than 130 Nations. These First Nations form an unbroken wall of opposition from the U.S. border to the Arctic Ocean. This is the first time that First Nations have come together publicly to declare a ban on oil tankers and pipelines on both the north and south coasts.

“North or south, it makes no difference. First Nations from every corner of B.C. are saying absolutely no tar sands pipelines or tankers in our territories,” said Chief Jackie Thomas of Saik’uz First Nation, a member of the Yinka Dene Alliance. “We have banned oil pipelines and tankers using our laws, and we will defend our decision using all the means at our disposal.”

It is impossible for oil pipelines to go around opposed First Nations, and their consent to pipelines and tankers in their territories is required by international law. The announcement—on the first anniversary of the Save the Fraser Declaration—comes in response to recent calls from the Harper government and oil executives to push through pipeline and tanker projects against the wishes of British Columbians and First Nations.

“The government can talk all it wants about pushing tar sands oil pipelines and tankers through B.C. There is no way our Nations will allow it,” says Chief Art Adolph, representing the St’at’imc Nation. “If they are serious about respecting our rights, the government of Canada must stop pushing the oil companies’ line that this is in the public interest, and the government of B.C. should step up to the plate too and begin protecting our rivers and coastlines from further environmental damages that violate our basic human rights. Especially now, when Canada is a global embarrassment for failing to address climate change and systemically ignoring Indigenous rights.”

The Save the Fraser Declaration, signed by more than 61 First Nations, bans tar sands oil pipelines throughout the Fraser River watershed. It also prohibits tar sands crude oil tankers in the ocean migration routes of Fraser River salmon. Until now, the declaration has been used to fight Enbridge’s northern pipeline plans. Now it's being recognized by First Nations as effectively banning tar sands crude oil exports on the whole coast, including the south. Adding to the chorus last week, the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs—representing most First Nations in B.C.—passed a resolution endorsing the Save the Fraser Declaration and the Coastal First Nations Declaration, and expressly recognizing that they prohibit the transportation of tar sands crude by pipeline and tanker anywhere in B.C.

The Coastal First Nations declared a ban on crude oil tanker traffic on the north coast of B.C. in 2010. Harold Yeltatzie, president of the Coastal First Nations, stated, “The Coastal First Nations support the First Nations communities along the Fraser, Bulkley and Skeena rivers in their fight to ban crude oil pipelines in their territories.” Yeltatzie added that the ban on crude oil tankers on B.C.’s coast must be maintained, saying, “The consequences of a catastrophic oil spill on our people and our culture cannot be calculated or compensated.”

“We won’t let government and industry play First Nations off one another with their usual divide and conquer strategies. We are drawing the line in B.C. and First Nations are more united than ever before to stop the threat of oil spills,” said Chief Na’Moks, on behalf of the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs, who signed the Declaration Dec. 1 on behalf of his people (who are not members of the Yinka Dene Alliance). “We have stood against tar sands pipelines from day one and we join with our brothers and sisters today in a shared commitment to put a stop to them.”

For more information, click here.

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