Trans Mountain Tar Sands Pipeline 'Final Harpoon' for Endangered Killer Whales
At the beginning of last week, environmentalists celebrated when the largest energy infrastructure company in North America, Kinder Morgan, pulled the plug on its controversial natural gas pipeline which had been proposed through parts of Massachusetts and Southern New Hampshire, called NorthEast Energy Direct.
But the energy giant is pushing ahead with other contentious pipelines, not least its Trans Mountain pipeline that connects the dirty tar sands in Alberta to an oil terminal in Burnaby, in British Colombia.
From here the tar sands is transported by tanker via the ecologically sensitive Salish Sea, which is a crucial habitat for endangered killer whales.
And now a new report by Friends of the Earth, Tar Sands/Dilbit Crude Oil Movements Within the Salish Sea, focuses on these movements of tar sands, which have been diluted with lighter volatile products to enable it to be shipped as “dilbit” or diluted bitumen.
The report focuses on the poorly publicized proposal to triple the Trans Mountain pipeline, which would result in an increased capacity to ship dilbit crude from Burnaby in British Colombia via the Salish Sea from 300,000 bbls/day to 890,000 bbls/day.
In turn this would result in a 7-fold increase in tanker traffic transiting through the Salish Sea, which is not just an important habitat for endangered killer whales, but is also home to 37 species of mammals, 172 species of birds, 247 species of fish and more than 3,000 species of invertebrates—approximately 113 of which are either listed as threatened or endangered in Canada and the U.S.
The report concludes the number of dilbit carrying oil tankers would increase from approximately one per week to one per day, significantly increasing the amount of oil being transported through the sea.
Friends of the Earth northwest consultant Fred Felleman said: “Trans Mountain is the one of the biggest threats to U.S. waters that few people have ever heard of.”
He says the proposed dilbit shipments are “a recipe for disaster.”
Friends of the Earth is now calling for improvements to the region’s oil spill response regulations, warning against “the biggest underlying threat of an oil spill—complacency.”
According to Felleman: “The expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline poses the greatest risk of a catastrophic oil spill in the Salish Sea,” before adding: “This project would be the final harpoon in the population of endangered southern resident killer whales.”
And that is before you factor in how the dirty tar sands flowing down Trans Mountain will undermine Canada’s climate goals.
With the signing of the historic Paris agreement, Canada has committed to limit global warming to less than 2 degrees C and aspire to keep it to less than 1.5 degrees C.
In either scenario, there is simply no room for tar sands expansion.
Alberta’s Premier Notley’s most recent plea for new pipelines to access more markets has been thoroughly debunked in a recent Oil Change International briefing note here.
New pipelines are about one thing only: locking in dangerous expansion of the world’s third largest oil reserve. This would also mean harnessing a fragile economy to decades’ more worth of boom and bust.
Alberta has massive potential to become a renewable energy superpower and new pipelines would do nothing but undermine this opportunity.
It looks like the opposition to this pipeline will only grow.
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By Jeff Masters, Ph.D.
Tropical Storm Josephine Also No Threat to Land<p>Meanwhile, the season's record-earliest tenth named storm, Tropical Storm Josephine, was also struggling with high wind shear as it traced out a path over the open ocean.</p><p>At 5 a.m. EDT Saturday, Josephine was located about 310 miles east of the northern Leeward Islands, moving west-northwest at 15 mph with top sustained winds at 45 mph. Josephine is expected to bring one to three inches of rain over portions of the northern Leeward Islands, the Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico over the weekend. Josephine will encounter steadily rising wind shear through Monday, peaking at a very high 30 – 35 knots. This high shear is likely to destroy Josephine's circulation by Monday, before the storm can affect any other land areas.</p><p><em>Reposted with permission from <a href="https://yaleclimateconnections.org/2020/08/tropical-storm-kyle-forms-unlikely-to-affect-land/" target="_blank">Yale Climate Connections</a>. </em><em></em></p>
By Ute Eberle
In May 2017, shells started washing up along the Ligurian coast in Italy. They were small and purple and belonged to a snail called Janthina pallida that is rarely seen on land. But the snails kept coming — so many that entire stretches of the beach turned pastel.
The Ligurian coast has been swept by snails turning its color pastel.
A World Between Worlds<p>The neuston comprises a multitude of weird and wonderful creatures. </p><p>Many, like the Portuguese man-of-war, which paralyzes its prey with venomous tentacles up to 30 meters long, are colored an electric shade of blue, possibly to protect themselves against the sun's UV rays, or as camouflages against predators.</p><p>There are also by-the-wind sailors, flattish creatures that raise chitin shields from the water like sails; slugs known as sea dragons that cling to the water's surface from below with webbed appendages; barnacles that build bubble rafts as big as dinner plates; and the world's only marine insects, a relation of the pond skater.</p><p>They live "between the worlds" of the sea and sky, as Federico Betti, a marine biologist at the University of Genoa, puts it. From below, predators lurk. From above, the sun burns. Winds and waves toss them about. Depending on the weather, their environment may be warm or cool, salty or less so.</p>
Sea snails can make up the neuston.
Velella velella jellyfish living on the surface of the ocean.<p>But now, they face another — manmade — threat from nets designed to catch trash. A project called <a href="https://theoceancleanup.com/" target="_blank">The Ocean Cleanup</a>, run by Dutch inventor Boyan Slat, has raised millions of dollars in donations and sponsorship to deploy long barriers with nets that will drift across the ocean in open loops to sweep up floating garbage. </p>
Collecting With the Current<p>"Plastic could outweigh fish in the oceans by 2050. To us, that future is unacceptable," <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/green-entrepreneur-sets-sights-on-great-pacific-garbage-patch/a-38855785" target="_blank">The Ocean Cleanup</a> declares on its website.</p><p>But Rebecca Helm, a marine biologist at the University of North Carolina, and one of the few scientists to study this ecosystem, fears that The Ocean Cleanup's proposal to remove 90% of the plastic trash from the water could also virtually wipe out the neuston.</p><p>One focus of Helm's studies is where these organisms congregate. "There are places that are very, very concentrated and areas of little concentration, and we're trying to figure out why," says Helm.</p><p>One factor is that the neuston floats with ocean currents, and Helm worries that it might collect in the exact same spots as marine plastic pollution. "Our initial data show that regions with high concentrations of plastic are also regions with high concentrations of life."</p>
Waste collection in the Pacific Ocean heralded by The Ocean Cleanup.<p>The Ocean Cleanup says Helm's concerns are based on "misguided assumptions."</p><p>"It's true that neustonic organisms will be trapped in the barriers," says Gerhard Herndl, professor of Aquatic Biology at the University of Vienna and one of project's scientific advisors. "But these organisms have dangerous lives. They're adapted to high losses because they get washed ashore in storms and they have high reproductive rates. If they didn't, they'd already be extinct."</p><p>Helm says they just don't know how quickly these creatures reproduce, and in any case recovering from passing storm is very different from surviving The Ocean Clean Up's systems which could be in place for years.</p>
Communication Breakdown<p>The Ocean Cleanup invited Helm to a symposium on the topic in December, where both sides presented their points of views and didn't seem to find much common ground. Since then, direct communication between them has stopped, says Helm. "They're not interested in talking to me anymore."</p><p>Both sides agree that much is still unknown about the neuston. But one thing that has been established is that most of the oceans' fish spend part of their lifecycle in the neuston. "More than 90% of marine fish species produce floating eggs that persist on the surface until hatching," Betti says.</p><p>The Ocean Cleanup has undertaken one of the few studies into this ecosystem, collecting data on the neuston on the relative abundance of neuston and floating plastic debris in the eastern North Pacific Ocean during a 2019 expedition to the Pacific Garbage Patch, an area where plastic pollution has accumulated on a vast scale. But it is not yet sharing what it has found. The information was being prepared for publication in an as of yet unspecified journal, probably some time next year, an Ocean Cleanup spokesperson said. </p>
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