The Truth about Transporting Tar Sands through Ontario and Quebec for Export into the U.S.
Pipeline company Enbridge Inc.’s plan, announced the evening of May 16, would put people living in Ontario and Quebec at greater risk of oil spills and hazardous air pollution. The company wants to send tar sands oil—which is more dangerous to transport and more difficult to clean up than conventional oil—through both provinces as part of a larger plan to export more oil to the U.S. The announcement came just days before public hearings begin in London, Ontario on a proposal to reverse its pipeline through part of Ontario.
“Enbridge wants to saddle Ontarians with more air pollution and more risk of toxic oil spills into our water to help get more tar sands oil out of the country, and worse, has tried to avoid a full public debate about the impacts of its plan,” said Gillian McEachern of Environmental Defence. “The energy board needs to respond to this bait and switch with a review of Enbridge’s real plan.”
Getting raw tar sands oil through pipelines is like moving hot, liquid sandpaper that grinds and burns its way through a pipe, thus increasing the chance that weakened pipelines will rupture. In the U.S., the pipelines that have the longest history of transporting tar sands in North Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan spilled almost three times as much oil per mile of pipeline between 2007 and 2010 compared to the U.S. national average. Tar sands oil spills are also more difficult to clean up once they do happen, and do more damage to the environment and public health than regular oil spills.
Last August, Enbridge asked the energy board for permission to reverse part of its Line 9 oil pipeline through Ontario, referring to the project as “Phase 1." Public hearings into the proposal begin on May 23 in London, Ontario. Yet yesterday’s announcement showed that Enbridge plans to reverse the entire pipeline from Sarnia to Montreal, which is four times the distance the energy board is currently looking at. The groups are calling on the board to review the environmental and economic impacts of this larger project, rather than pieces of it.
“The pipeline which would carry the tar sands oil all the way from Alberta to Quebec would go through some of the most densely populated areas of the country such as the Greater Montreal Area,” said Steven Guilbeault of Equiterre. “Furthermore, polls after polls have shown that Quebecers are very opposed to tar sands oil because of the environmental impacts of that industry.”
Environmental Defence and Equiterre are official intervenors in the energy board review of the plan. While supporters of the project have claimed that Ontario and Quebec will benefit economically from this, Enbridge has failed to provide information on the economic impacts of its plan for Ontario.
The growing Texas solar industry is offering a safe harbor to unemployed oil and gas professionals amidst the latest oil and gas industry bust, this one brought on by the novel coronavirus pandemic, the Houston Chronicle reports.
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By Aaron W Hunter
A chance discovery of a beautifully preserved fossil in the desert landscape of Morocco has solved one of the great mysteries of biology and paleontology: how starfish evolved their arms.
The Pompeii of palaeontology. Aaron Hunter, Author provided<h2></h2><p>Although starfish might appear very robust animals, they are typically made up of lots of hard parts attached by ligaments and soft tissue which, upon death, quickly degrade. This means we rely on places like the Fezouata formations to provide snapshots of their evolution.</p><p>The starfish fossil record is patchy, especially at the critical time when many of these animal groups first appeared. Sorting out how each of the various types of ancient starfish relate to each other is like putting a puzzle together when many of the parts are missing.</p><h2>The Oldest Starfish</h2><p><em><a href="https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/216101v1.full.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Cantabrigiaster</a></em> is the most primitive starfish-like animal to be discovered in the fossil record. It was discovered in 2003, but it has taken over 17 years to work out its true significance.</p><p>What makes <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> unique is that it lacks almost all the characteristics we find in brittle stars and starfish.</p><p>Starfish and brittle stars belong to the family Asterozoa. Their ancestors, the Somasteroids were especially fragile - before <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> we only had a handful of specimens. The celebrated Moroccan paleontologist Mohamed <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.palaeo.2016.06.041" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Ben Moula</a> and his local team was instrumental in discovering <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0031018216302334?via%3Dihub" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">these amazing fossils</a> near the town of Zagora, in Morocco.</p><h2>The Breakthrough</h2><p>Our breakthrough moment came when I compared the arms of <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> with those of modern sea lilles, filter feeders with long feathery arms that tend to be attached to the sea floor by a stem or stalk.</p><p>The striking similarity between these modern filter feeders and the ancient starfish led our team from the University of Cambridge and Harvard University to create a new analysis. We applied a biological model to the features of all the current early Asterozoa fossils in existence, along with a sample of their closest relatives.</p>
Cantabrigiaster is the most primitive starfish-like animal to be discovered in the fossil record. Aaron Hunter, Author provided<p>Our results demonstrate <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> is the most primitive of all the Asterozoa, and most likely evolved from ancient animals called crinoids that lived 250 million years before dinosaurs. The five arms of starfish are a relic left over from these ancestors. In the case of <em>Cantabrigiaster</em>, and its starfish descendants, it evolved by flipping upside-down so its arms are face down on the sediment to feed.</p><p>Although we sampled a relatively small numbers of those ancestors, one of the unexpected outcomes was it provided an idea of how they could be related to each other. Paleontologists studying echinoderms are often lost in detail as all the different groups are so radically different from each other, so it is hard to tell which evolved first.</p>