VANCOUVER - Oil and water don't mix, at least as far as the City of Vancouver is concerned.
As Kinder Morgan launches a series of information sessions in the Metro Vancouver area about the proposed expansion of its Trans Mountain pipeline, city officials are exploring whether Vancouver can force the Texas-based company to increase its liability coverage in kind.
Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson, whose council has voted to oppose the expansion, said the city will be directly affected by any oil spill and staff are working on a bylaw that will ensure the company has enough liability insurance to cover costs in a worst-case scenario.
"We're seeing taxpayer impact from the spill in Alaska, the Exxon Valdez. We're seeing that impact in the Gulf oil spill. We don't ever want to see that in Vancouver," Robertson said Wednesday.
Demanding liability coverage over and above the $1.3 billion the company currently has access to is an extra measure of accountability, he said.
"That can't be on the back of the city. That's part of our overall concern with having a pipeline tripled and oil tankers coming through our harbour and putting our city at risk."
The proposal by Kinder Morgan to see the existing pipeline from Alberta to Metro Vancouver twinned has gone largely unnoticed as public debate has focused intensely on the Northern Gateway pipeline proposed by Calgary-based Enbridge through northern B.C.
But the National Energy Board will hold a public hearing early next year on Kinder Morgan's toll application — the first step toward regulatory approval of the expansion.
The Tsleil-Waututh Nation, an aboriginal band with about 500 members on the shores of Burrard Inlet, has refused to take part in any information meetings organized by Kinder Morgan but has encouraged other members of the public to appear and voice their discontent. The turnout at the meetings so far has been light.
"The Nation has experienced the results of crude oil handling and refining on Burrard Inlet for a number of decades. The risks associated with the pipeline expansion are just too great for its people to accept," the band said in a statement Wednesday demanding the federal government consult them on the project.
Kinder Morgan has not yet applied to the federal energy board for the overall expansion project and doesn't anticipate doing so until late 2013. The hearing to be held in Calgary in February will deal only with commercial terms of the expanded pipleline should it go ahead.
The City of Vancouver will be allowed to participate as a government intervener, but Robertson is not pleased that hearings will only take place in Calgary.
"That's nowhere near where the pipeline is, nowhere near where the tanker impacts could be," he said, adding that First Nations and community groups will not be allowed to participate in the preliminary application.
"I don't think it serves our city, it doesn't serve our country when we shut people out of this kind of debate and consultation."
In operation since 1953, Trans Mountain runs from just outside Edmonton to its terminus in Burnaby, and from there, oil is distributed through separate pipelines to local terminals, a refinery and the Westridge marine terminal in Port Metro Vancouver.
If the application is successful, construction could begin in 2016 and additional oil could be flowing in 2017.
The $4.3-billion project would increase the capacity of the 1,100-kilometre pipeline from 300,000 barrels a day to 750,000. It would also allow the pipeline — which currently transports crude and refined oil from the Alberta oil sands — to transport diluted bitumen, a molasses-like oil that is more difficult to contain and clean-up in the event of a marine spill.
The Westridge terminal currently handles about eight vessels a month, five of them tankers. If the pipeline expands, that will increase to about 28 a month, 25 of them tankers.
A call to Kinder Morgan's Vancouver office seeking comment was not returned, but the company has said the Trans Mountain system has operated safety for almost 60 years "safely and efficiently providing the only West Coast access for Canadian oil products."
Critics say Kinder Morgan has forgotten July 2007, when 250,000 litres of oil from the Trans Mountain line rained down on a Burnaby neighbourhood after a construction crew accidentally punctured the line. About 70,000 litres — 450 barrels — spilled into Burrard Inlet, and the clean-up costs reached $15 million.
The maximum liability coverage available now is $1.3 billion, said Andrea Reimer, the Vancouver city councillor who sponsored the bylaw motion earlier this year.
"Although I know that sounds like a big number, it's worth noting that the Exxon Valdez spill is at $3.5 billion and counting to clean that up; the Deep Water Horizon that happened in 2010 in the Gulf of Mexico is over $20 billion, and that's just direct cleanup," Reimer said. "Forget the economic impacts, the reputational impact, the impacts on individual residents."
The city hopes to have that bylaw in place by the end of the year.
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Syncrude Upgrader and Oil Sands
The refining or upgrading of the tarry bitumen which lies under the oil sands consumes far more oil and energy than conventional oil and produces almost twice as much carbon. Each barrel of oil requires 3-5 barrels of fresh water from the neighboring Athabasca River. About 90% of this is returned as toxic tailings into the vast unlined tailings ponds that dot the landscape. Syncrude alone dumps 500,000 tons of toxic tailings into just one of their tailings ponds everyday.
Boreal Forest and Coast Mountains / Atlin Lake, British Columbia | 2001
This area, located in the extreme northwest of British Columbia, marks the western boundary of the Boreal region. On the border of the Yukon and Southeast Alaska, the western flank of these mountains descends into Alaska's Tongass Rainforest and British Columbia's Great Bear Rainforest. Far from the oil sands, the greatest remaining coastal temperate and marine ecosystem is imminently threatened by the proposal to build a 750-mile pipeline to pump 550,000 barrels per day of oil sands crude to the coast. Once there, it would be shipped through some of the most treacherous waters, virtually assuring an ecological disaster at some point in the future.
Tailings Pond in Winter, Abstract #2 / Alberta Tar Sands | 2010
Even in the extreme cold of the winter, the toxic tailings ponds do not freeze. On one particularly cold morning, the partially frozen tailings, sand, liquid tailings and oil residue, combined to produce abstractions that reminded me of a Jackson Pollock canvas.
Aspen and Spruce | Northern Alberta | 2001
Photographed in late autumn in softly falling snow, a solitary spruce is set against a sea of aspen. The Boreal Forest of northern Canada is perhaps the best and largest example of a largely intact forest ecosystem. Canada's Boreal Forest alone stores an amount of carbon equal to ten times the total annual global emissions from all fossil fuel consumption.
Tar Sands at Night #1 | Alberta Oil Sands | 2010
Twenty four hours a day the oil sands eats into the most carbon rich forest ecosystem on the planet. Storing almost twice as much carbon per hectare as tropical rainforests, the boreal forest is the planet's greatest terrestrial carbon storehouse. To the industry, these diverse and ecologically significant forests and wetlands are referred to as overburden, the forest to be stripped and the wetlands dredged and replaced by mines and tailings ponds so vast they can be seen from outer space.
Dry Tailings #2 | Alberta Tar Sands | 2010
In an effort to deal with the problem of tailings ponds, Suncor is experimenting with dry tailings technology. This has the potential to limit, or eliminate, the need for vast tailings ponds in the future and lessen this aspect of the oil sands' impact.
Tailings Pond Abstract #2 | Alberta Tar Sands / 2010
So large are the Alberta Tar Sands tailings ponds that they can be seen from space. It has been estimated by Natural Resources Canada that the industry to date has produced enough toxic waste to fill a canal 32 feet deep by 65 feet wide from Fort McMurray to Edmonton, and on to Ottawa, a distance of over 2,000 miles. In this image, the sky is reflected in the toxic and oily waste of a tailings pond.
Confluence of Carcajou River and Mackenzie River | Mackenzie Valley, NWT | 2005
The Caracajou River winds back and forth creating this oxbow of wetlands as it joins the Mackenzie flowing north to the Beaufort Sea. This region, almost entirely pristine, and the third largest watershed basin in the world, will be directly impacted by the proposed Mackenzie Valley National Gas Pipeline to fuel the energy needs of the Alberta Oil Sands mega-project.
Black Cliff | Alberta Oil Sands | 2005
Oil sands pit mining is done in benches or steps. These benches are each approximately 12-15 meters high. Giant shovels dig the oil sand and place it into heavy hauler trucks that range in size from 240 tons to the largest trucks, which have a 400-ton capacity.
Oil Sands Upgrader in Winter| Alberta Oil Sands | 2010
The Alberta oil sands are Canada's single largest source of carbon. They produce about as much annually as the nation of Denmark. The refining of the tar-like bitumen requires more water and uses almost twice as much energy as the production of conventional oil. Particularly visible in winter, vast plumes of toxic pollution fill the skies. The oil sands are so large they create their own weather systems.
Boreal Forest and Wetland | Athabasca Delta Northern Alberta | 2010
Located just 70 miles downstream from the Alberta oil sands, the Athabasca Delta is the world's largest freshwater delta. It lies at the convergence of North America's four major flyways and is a critical stopover for migrating waterfowl and considered one of the most globally significant wetlands. It is threatened both by the massive water consumption of the tar sands and its toxic tailings ponds.
Tar Pit #3
This network of roads reminded me of a claw or tentacles. It represents for me the way in which the tentacles of the tar sands reach out and wreak havoc and destruction. Proposed pipelines to American Midwest, Mackenzie Valley, and through the Great Bear Rainforest will bring new threats to these regions while the pipelines fuel new markets and ensure the proposed five fold expansion of the oil sands.
10. Oil And Gas Accounts For 4.8 Per Cent Of GDP
The oil and gas industries accounted for around $65 billion of economic activity in Canada annually in recent years, or slightly less than 5 per cent of GDP. Source: <a href="http://www.ceri.ca/docs/2010-10-05CERIOilandGasReport.pdf" target="_hplink">Canada Energy Research Institute</a>
9. Oil Exports Have Grown Tenfold Since 1980
Canada exported some 12,000 cubic metres of oil per day in 1980. By 2010, that number had grown to 112,000 cubic metres daily. Source: <a href="http://membernet.capp.ca/SHB/Sheet.asp?SectionID=9&SheetID=224" target="_hplink">Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers</a>
8. Refining Didn't Grow At All As Exports Boomed
Canada refined 300,000 cubic metres daily in 1980; in 2010, that number was slightly down, to 291,000, even though exports of oil had grown tenfold in that time. Source: <a href="http://membernet.capp.ca/SHB/Sheet.asp?SectionID=7&SheetID=104" target="_hplink">Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers</a>
7. 97 Per Cent Of Oil Exports Go To The U.S.
Despite talk by the federal government that it wants to open Asian markets to Canadian oil, the vast majority of exports still go to the United States -- 97 per cent as of 2009. Source: <a href="http://www.nrcan.gc.ca/statistics-facts/energy/895" target="_hplink">Natural Resources Canada</a>
6. Canada Has World's 2nd-Largest Proven Oil Reserves
Canada's proven reserves of 175 billion barrels of oil -- the vast majority of it trapped in the oil sands -- is the second-largest oil stash in the world, after Saudi Arabia's 267 billion. Source: <a href="http://www.ogj.com/index.html" target="_hplink">Oil & Gas Journal</a>
5. Two-Thirds Of Oil Sands Bitumen Goes To U.S.
One-third of Canada's oil sands bitumen stays in the country, and is refined into gasoline, heating oil and diesel. Source: <a href="http://www.nrcan.gc.ca/statistics-facts/energy/895" target="_hplink">Natural Resources Canada</a>
4. Alberta Is Two-Thirds Of The Industry
Despite its reputation as the undisputed centre of Canada's oil industry, Alberta accounts for only two-thirds of energy production. British Columbia and Saskatchewan are the second and third-largest producers. Source: <a href="http://www.nrcan.gc.ca/statistics-facts/energy/895" target="_hplink">Natural Resources Canada</a>
3. Alberta Will Reap $1.2 Trillion From Oil Sands
Alberta' government <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/03/27/alberta-oil-sands-royalties-ceri_n_1382640.html" target="_hplink">will reap $1.2 trillion in royalties from the oil sands over the next 35 years</a>, according to the Canadian Energy Research Institute.
2. Canadian Oil Consumption Has Stayed Flat
Thanks to improvements in energy efficiency, and a weakening of the country's manufacturing base, oil consumption in Canada has had virtually no net change in 30 years. Consumption went from 287,000 cubic metres daily in 1980 to 260,000 cubic metres daily in 2010. Source: Source: <a href="http://membernet.capp.ca/SHB/Sheet.asp?SectionID=6&SheetID=99" target="_hplink">Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers</a>
1. 250,000 Jobs.. Plus Many More?
The National Energy Board says oil and gas employs 257,000 people in Canada, not including gas station employees. And the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers says the oil sands alone <a href="http://www.capp.ca/aboutUs/mediaCentre/NewsReleases/Pages/OilsandsaCanadianjobcreator.aspx" target="_hplink">will grow from 75,000 jobs to 905,000 jobs by 2035</a> -- assuming, of course, the price of oil holds up.