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Tank farm fire and oil spill just two of the risks with the Trans Mountain pipeline

Maude Barlow at BC Legislature

Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow speaks from the steps of the BC Legislature in Victoria against Trans Mountain and other tar sands pipelines.

The Council of Canadians is opposed to the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline. The proposed expansion of this pipeline would mean an increase to 890,000 barrels per day of diluted bitumen travelling from the tar sands in Alberta to the community of Burnaby and export supertankers on the Pacific Coast.

There are serious dangers associated with this.

The Globe and Mail reports, “If fire erupted in the expanded tank farm proposed as part of Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline, it could create a nightmare scenario, with flames engulfing Burnaby Mountain and causing a massive urban evacuation. That dire warning was issued Wednesday (May 13) in a report by Chris Bowcock, deputy chief of the Burnaby Fire Department, who did a risk assessment of the tank farm, which would double in size, to 26 storage tanks, under the Trans Mountain proposal. …The assessment … says by adding 13 tanks to the existing oil storage facility on Burnaby Mountain, the spacing will be so tight that fire could easily jump from one tank to another, creating a ‘boilover’ event that would be unstoppable. …He said millions of barrels of crude oil could erupt in flames, and winds would carry burning oil beyond the boundaries of the tank farm.”

The City of Vancouver, the City of Burnaby and the Tsleil-Waututh Nation have also commissioned a computer-animated spill analysis in relation to the Kinder Morgan project. Yesterday, the Canadian Press reported, “Computer-animated models [illustrate] how rapidly Vancouver’s inlets and beaches could become coated in crude under a worst-case oil tanker spill scenario. The analysis … claims between 50 and 90 per cent of spilled oil could spread to shorelines within 24 hours… The ebb and flow projected by the 72-hour time-lapse, driven mainly by tidal currents and winds, looks like a swarm of black flies spreading across Vancouver’s English Bay and harbour.”

Beyond a tank farm fire and an oil spill on the shores of Vancouver, there is also the nightmare scenario of the bitumen being “safely” delivered. That’s because the project would produce an estimated 270 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions over a 35-year period. Researchers at University College London have concluded that 85 per cent of the tar sands cannot be burned if the world wants to limit global warming (as it must) to under 2 degrees Celsius. At 890,000 barrels per day, the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion would provide the capacity for an increase of about 18 million barrels per year in bitumen production.

This past week the Harper government announced its climate emission reduction targets for the COP 21 climate summit in Paris this December. While the Harper would have failed to meet the target in the Kyoto Accord (had it not pulled out of that agreement) and is now on track to exceed its weak pledge in the 2010 Copenhagen climate accord, the government is now saying (with little credibility) it will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 30 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030. Using the more standard 1990 baseline comparison, the Harper government is pledging a 14 per cent reduction by 2030 compared to the European Union commitment of a 40 per cent cut by 2030.

The National Energy Board review process of the Kinder Morgan proposal is now underway and a federal cabinet decision on it is expected by April of next year, not long after this year’s October 19th federal election.

If approved, the pipeline could be operational by November 2017.

For more on our campaign against the Trans Mountain pipeline, please click here.