Oil Sands Truth: Shut Down the Tar Sands

Alberta Clipper Project Vs. Saskatchewan Farmers

Like the bulk of the proposed pipelines to head south after leaving the Tarsands, this pipeline project run by Enbridge is actually taking heavy bitumen to be refined in the southern 48. That isn't merely to keep the corporations in the southern US functioning, but as the rest of the world's capacity shrinks while demand grows, as it is wont to do, this is the only feasible way that the US Dep't of Energy's strategy of bleeding the Albertan tarsands as fast as possible can actually get refined, for there would be no way to construct the needed infrastructure fast enough.

From nations in the Arctic to farmers in the Prairies, people being run down by these plans have one culprit: The world's largest ever industrial plan, tarsands-- and one of the dirtiest since the supposed end of the coal age. And coal is now coming back, along with nuclear, to make up the energy deficit (and to dig more tar pits).


Farmers at odds with pipeline company
Lori Coolican, The StarPhoenix
Published: Friday, March 16, 2007

Landowners are raising alarms over the safety of oil pipelines snaking through an expanding corridor of Saskatchewan countryside.

They want closer government scrutiny and better compensation from a major pipeline company for lost productivity and access to easements where the lines are buried on their property.

"We don't believe anything we're signing anymore. We're scared," said Ken Habermehl, part of a group of about 100 farmers who banded together earlier this year to form the Saskatchewan Association of Pipeline Landowners, in hopes of gaining a stronger negotiating position with Enbridge, the second-largest pipeline company in Canada.

Similar organizations at odds with pipeline companies already exist in Manitoba, B.C. and Ontario. Saskatchewan's group adds new members daily, as frustrated farmers read the fine print and decide they can't fight a large corporation alone, Habermehl said.

"We're going to keep growing."

Enbridge is planning to seek National Energy Board (NEB) approval to start construction on a new line, dubbed the Alberta Clipper, by the end of 2007 or early in 2008. Valued at $2 billion US, it's intended to carry light and heavy crude oil from Hardisty, Alta., to the company's American system in Superior, Wis., -- covering a distance of about 1,600 kilometres -- at a rate of up to 450,000 barrels a day.

The company already has five pipelines in the corridor that stretches from Luseland and Kerrobert in the west to Maryfield at the Manitoba border -- and there are outstanding issues related to all of them, the landowners' group says. Their concerns relate to safety and environmental damage, especially since the pipes run into and out of the South Saskatchewan River, which is a major source of drinking water, they stated in a letter faxed to news outlets recently.

"This company has to buy new easements to accommodate this massive project. The landowners have concerns over the last five lines and want those issues addressed first before there is any more easement being bought from us. . . . We are concerned about our neighbours who live downstream from where these pipelines cross."

The National Energy Board, which regulates oil and gas pipelines, has allowed Enbridge "to avoid a full Comprehensive or Review Panel Environmental Assessment of their proposed massive Alberta Clipper pipeline project" in favour of a simple screening process, the group wrote.

"This screening process is one that is taking place behind closed doors and is far less rigorous than what is truly needed."

The group of farmers contends the existing lines are potentially unsafe because they're too shallow and pass too close to farmyards. Worst of all, they say it's unclear who will be responsible for cleaning up once the pipes -- two of which are more than 50 years old and one of which is more than 40 -- have served their purpose.

Enbridge is offering to buy easements only 18 metres wide, but due to "safety zones" legislated by the NEB, the company will actually control access to another 30 metres of property on each side -- 60 additional metres in total -- without paying landowners any compensation, the group says.

A spokesperson for the pipeline company said Enbridge has been accused before of lacking any plans for decommissioning its pipelines "and it's just absolutely not true."

Landowners are not liable for any damages caused by the lines passing through their property, Glenn Herchak said in an interview, adding the company maintains good relationships with the majority of landowners along the corridor. It's in Enbridge's own best interests to ensure the lines are safe and rigorously monitored, he said.

"Enbridge is responsible for its pipelines, so landowners should not be concerned about abandonment."

The NEB's approval process is "very rigid . . . and part of that is extensive public consultation," he said.

NEB spokesperson Andrew Cameron noted Enbridge has not yet made a formal application for the Alberta Clipper. The company submitted a preliminary information package last fall, triggering various government agencies to begin planning for the environmental assessment process. When the formal application is received, a full and open hearing process will begin, he said.


© The StarPhoenix (Saskatoon) 2007

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