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NEWS: Council expresses opposition to shipping oil by rail

Vancouver Sun columnist Barbara Yaffe writes, “With B.C.’s formal renunciation of the Northern Gateway proposal on Friday, the option of ‘oil by rail’ becomes more relevant. But if anyone thinks diluted bitumen from Alberta is going to cross B.C. in rail cars without a fight, they’re mistaken. …A letter (was) sent last January to Canadian National CEO Claude Mongeau by opponents of the rail option. That letter, signed by 15 environmental groups in B.C. plus the Council of Canadians, stated: ‘Should CN decide to try to move forward with [a pipeline-on-rails proposal], it would face major opposition and risks to the company. We urge you to stop any forward movement with shipping tarsands oil by rail through B.C.'”

She highlights, “In B.C., rail transport of bitumen — which doesn’t require federal environmental review or sanction — would involve crossing salmon-rearing streams. CN’s line runs along part of the Skeena River, and crosses the upper tributaries of both the Fraser and Skeena watersheds. And, of course, like any transport option — even mule — rail would fuel greenhouse gas emissions by enabling continued oilsands development. Moving the oil by rail also would enable oil tanker traffic on B.C.’s north coast — anathema to environmentalists. They also cite noise, poorer air quality and increased waiting times at rail crossings.”

“But CN and CP railways transport four per cent of Western Canada’s oil. Their combined loads, according to Pembina figures, are fast increasing — from 17,000 rail cars in 2011 to 83,500 rail cars a year later. …Some 100,000 barrels of Canadian oil lately are moving to market by rail daily, helping ease Alberta’s bitumen bubble.” And she notes two new proposals we should keep a watch on – 1) “The G Seven Generations Ltd. project, to carry bitumen by electric railway to the TransAlaska pipeline in Delta Junction, Alaska, for shipment through Valdez.” 2) “A proposal from the Churchill Gateway Development Corp. envisions transport of Alberta crude through Manitoba for export out of Churchill.”

In February, the Globe and Mail reported Canada’s Ambassador to China Guy Saint-Jacques saying that energy firms are in discussion with railway companies to transport oil west. That article also highlighted, “Nexen has studied the possibility of building an export terminal in British Columbia at the Port of Prince Rupert that would carry oil to the coast by rail.”

For more, please read:
Having tarred pipelines, environmentalists prepare to take on railways
Shipping oil by rail in Canada