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Susan Casey-Lefkowitz

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Multinationals Heads Stuck in the Tar Sands

Posted: 01/10/2012 8:16 am

Rather than preparing to listen respectfully to community members in British Columbia, the Canadian federal government is acting as a spokesperson for Big Oil, accusing opponents of the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline of being "radicals" and "foreigners." When it comes to tar sands pipelines, multinational oil companies are hijacking a Canadian process with a recent series of accusations from tar sands interests trying to minimize the very valid Canadian public concerns.

The Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline would bring tar sands oil west from Alberta across British Columbia for export to Asia and California. It will drive tar sands expansion, accelerate global warming, and put globally important rivers and coastal ecosystems under threat.

This pipeline proposal has long been of concern to the people of British Columbia. First Nations' opposition has been so strong over the years that the project proposal even went on hold at one point. Tomorrow, the Joint Review Panel public meetings on the pipeline proposal start in Kitamaat Village on the B.C. coast where the pipeline would end and the oil tanker traffic begin.

The Canadian people -- and especially those of British Columbia who will bear the highest costs of this pipeline -- need to lead decision-making about this project. NRDC is proud to have been invited to partner with Canadians in a campaign to oppose the Northern Gateway tar sands pipeline.

Gerald Amos, former chief of the Haisla Nation and resident of Kitamaat Village, writes about the recent flare in tar sands oil interest rhetoric:

This desperate attempt to change the minds and hearts of the hundreds of thousands of people who oppose this project, is driven by more than concern for our home and native land. It is being driven by greed and desperation. The foreign interest groups Canadians should really be concerned about are the Chinese oil companies investing billions in the tar sands, and the multinational oil companies like Shell and British Petroleum, who are investing 200 million dollars trying to sell Canadians on this astoundingly stupid idea.

Early last year, Enbridge trumpeted that Sinopec (a state-owned oil Chinese oil company) had provided them with $10 million to help push Northern Gateway through the regulatory process and to conduct public relations (this was part of a part of a bigger $100-million pot).

Enbridge admits that millions more have come to the oil pipeline giant from other undisclosed foreign oil companies. But Enbridge refuses to say who. Just last week, after years of pressure, Enbridge finally revealed a handful of their formerly secret backers -- including another $10 million from a subsidiary of the China National Offshore Oil Corporation, as well as some Canadian companies.

So in response to Canadian Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver who published the latest in a series of attempts to undermine opposition to the Northern Gateway project, I say that care for our planet and our health makes sense and is not "radical." Wanting to fight climate change in the face of the violent storms, floods, droughts, and fires that we have experienced in just the last year in North America makes sense and is not "radical." And wanting to preserve our homes, rivers, communities and coasts is something that people across Canada and the United States agree on.

Yet, multinational oil companies are making tar sands decisions about what brings them the most profit -- and the Canadian federal government seems to want the oil industry to continue making those decisions instead of the Canadian public. Multinational oil companies are hijacking Canadian's ability to decide their energy future.

The Northern Gateway tar sands pipeline hearings are an opportunity for Canadians -- especially the people of British Columbia and First Nations -- to make known their concerns with this tar sands pipeline. And the fact that thousands of Canadians have registered to speak shows how deep the concerns about this pipeline project run.

The National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is proud to be partnering with Canadian environmental groups and First Nations to fight a pipeline that will worsen climate change, bring tar sands oil to California refineries, and bring oil spills to Canada's wild rivers, estuaries and coastal rainforests.