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Council of Canadians celebrates stoppage of tar sands shipments on the St. Lawrence River

The Kildair loading facility on the St. Lawrence River at Sorel-Tracy. Photo by Brent Patterson.

The Kildair loading facility on the St. Lawrence River at Sorel-Tracy. Photo by Brent Patterson.

The Council of Canadians celebrates the news that Suncor tar sands shipments on the St. Lawrence River from Sorel-Tracy, Quebec have been suspended indefinitely.

On October 21, we sent a letter to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to ask them to intervene against supertankers on the St. Lawrence River. That’s because these tar sands tankers pass through the nearby Lac Saint-Pierre, a body of water designated a World Biosphere Reserve by the United Nations in 2000. And on October 26, Council of Canadians water campaigner Emma Lui and I joined a protest with several thousand people in Sorel-Tracy in opposition to these shipments.

CBC Radio Canada now reports (in French), “Convoys of [oil-by-rail] trains and stockpiling oil [in Sorel-Tracy] will cease for an indefinite period [due to the low price of oil]. Kildair, the company [that operates the storage facility and supertanker loading facility on the St. Lawrence River] has been advised of this business decision [by Calgary-based Suncor].”

The article notes, “Yesterday, Western Canadian Select [the price that tar sands crude is sold at] was trading at US $61.78. At the end of September, it was trading at US$82. …According to Jacques Simon, a professor of commodity trading and finance at the University of Moncton, it costs US$10 per barrel for Alberta crude to travel to Sorel-Tracy by rail, in addition to US$3 per barrel for transportation by ship to a refinery in Louisiana.” In an October 18 campaign blog The dangerous equations of the price of oil we anticipated this temporary suspension of shipments noting that the break-even point for tar sands bitumen is $65-70 a barrel.

Le Journal de Quebec adds (in French), “However, the markets are volatile and nothing precludes a rise in crude prices and a resumption of oil shipments from Suncor Kildair. The mayor of Sorel-Tracy, Serge Peloquin, therefore remains on guard. ‘It is not because they are taking a break as we must pause’, he told a local radio station. Several city councilors in Tracy are also increasingly demanding that the Bureau of Public Hearing on the environment (BAPE) examine Kildair [over complaints about odours and health concerns].”

Suncor has said it plans to send 20-30 tankers filled with bitumen from the port of Sorel-Tracy each year. On September 24, the Minerva Gloria left this port loaded with 700,000 barrels of bitumen on board destined for the island of Sardinia. Then on October 23, the Genmar Daphne departed the port filled with bitumen bound for the Gulf of Mexico.

Dozens of municipalities along the river have said they are unprepared should there be a tanker spill and a committee of experts has found that only 5-20 per cent of an oil spill could be recovered from the water.

The Council of Canadians will continue to organize against any tar sands tanker shipments on the St. Lawrence River.