Why regulations on extreme energy in the Great Lakes are not enough

The Council of Canadians is calling on Environment Canada and the Ontario Ministry of Environment to take bold action and ban extreme energy in the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River.

In a submission sent to Environment Canada and the Ontario Ministry of Environment on the Draft Canada-Ontario Agreement on Great Lakes Water Quality and Ecosystem Health, 2014 (COA), the Council writes: “While the draft COA touches on a number of pressing issues our comment focuses on the transport of extreme energy - new forms of energy as well as the waste from more traditional forms – around, under and on the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence River. Events are moving rapidly to the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence River as a carbon corridor for a newly aggressive North American energy industry. This poses the greatest threat yet to these waters. We are urging you to take bold action and ban extreme energy in the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River.”

The fourteen annexes of the draft COA cover the following topics: harmful pollutants, discharges from Vessels, areas of Concern, lakewide management, aquatic invasive species, habitat and species, groundwater quality, climate change impacts, science, promoting innovation, engaging communities, engaging First Nations and engaging Métis.

The submission written by Council of Canadians national chairperson Maude Barlow and water campaigner Emma Lui outline a newer threat to the Great Lakes: the increased production and transport of unconventional or “extreme” energy sources on, under or around the Great Lakes.

The Council argues: “While these are important steps to spill prevention, we do not believe these are strong enough measures to protect the Great Lakes from potential spills from extreme energy projects like Line 67 (also known as the Alberta Clipper), which carries tar sands oil from Edmonton, Alberta to Superior, Wisconsin;  Line 5, which threatens the Straits of Mackinac; the Energy East pipeline, which cuts through the Great Lakes watershed and Calumet Specialty Products Partner’s plan to build an oil barge dock in Superior, Wisconsin that would ship tar sands and fracked oil across the Great Lakes. (Photo below: National Wildlife Federation, A diving expedition by the National Wildlife Federation captured video footage of broken supports and piles of unknown debris on portions of Line 5.)

Calumet’s plan to ship tar sands and fracked oil across the Great Lakes would increase the amount of tar sands crude shipped on the Lakes and not only threatens the lakes but also threatens wildlife and the drinking water of Great Lakes communities

This plan to build a $25 million oil shipping dock in Superior, Wisconsin on the western tip of Lake Superior could be the launch point for oil shipments across the Great Lakes to refineries in Ontario, Michigan, Ohio and even the East Coast. A tanker would hold approximately 77,000 barrels of crude oil, while a barge would hold about 110,000 barrels. This has also been reported as 13 million barrels a year.

The deadline to comment on Draft Canada-Ontario Agreement on Great Lakes Water Quality and Ecosystem Health (2014) is July 3, 2014. To make a comment, visit the websites for Environment Canada and the Ontario Environmental Registry.

To read Maude Barlow’s new report Liquid Pipeline: Extreme energy’s threat to the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence River, click here.

To sign the petition calling for a ban on extreme energy in the Great Lakes, click here.