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Alberta Clipper pipeline to destroy wetlands and threaten Great Lakes

The Council of Canadians is raising concerns about the potential threat that expansion plans for the Alberta Clipper, a pipeline also known as Line 67, would have on the Great Lakes. The expansion project would also destroy wetlands along the route in Saskatchewan and Manitoba and threatens three species at risk in Canada.

The oil industry and the Great Lakes

On September 9, 2013, the National Energy Board sent a letter to Environment Canada warning that approval of the expansion would result in the permanent loss of wetlands along the pipeline route and that it threatens the Northern Leopard Frog, Barn Swallow and Sprague’s Pipit, three species named under the Species At Risk Act.

“The expansion of the Alberta Clipper is going to increase the development of the tar sands and spell disaster for water sources, climate change and public health. We need to reduce emissions to avoid catastrophe,” says Maude Barlow, National Chairperson of the Council of Canadians. “There is no public process for this expansion project despite the impacts it’s going to have, especially on the Great Lakes. If we want to prevent projects like this from putting our water at risk, communities need to speak out.”

Line 67 is an existing pipeline that begins in Edmonton and passes through Saskatchewan, Manitoba, North Dakota, and Minnesota, ending in Superior, Wisconsin at the western tip of Lake Superior. Enbridge has slowly been increasing the capacity of Line 67. The company applied to increase capacity from 450,000 bpd to 570,000 bpd last year and received approval from the National Energy Board in February of this year. Enbridge put in another application to increase capacity to 800,000 bpd in August, which near doubles the original capacity of the pipeline.

Enbridge has submitted an Environmental and Socio-Economic Assessment for Phase II of the Alberta Clipper Capacity Expansion Project to the National Energy Board, which outlined that the expansion plan would result in the reduction of surface and ground water quality.

Enbridge has yet to submit an Environmental and Socio-Economic Assessment to U.S. authorities, which is particularly concerning given the potential impacts on the Great Lakes. Canadian and U.S. authorities have yet to conduct their own environmental assessments on the expansion project.

“This is an expansion project that will have serious consequences for the Great Lakes,” says Emma Lui, water campaigner for the Council of Canadians. “According to a 2008 report, there were at least 17 refinery expansion projects in the works for the Great Lakes. Communities all around the Great Lakes are very worried about the impact that more tar sands oil will have on the already stressed lakes. Tar sands pipelines carrying bitumen are a threat to the Great Lakes – we need to ban them.”

There are a number of proposed transport routes once the tar sands oil reaches Superior, Wisconsin. Enbridge is planning to expand Line 5, which runs from Superior, Wisconsin through the Straits of Mackinac to Sarnia in Southern Ontario. Calumet Specialty Products Partners is exploring plans to build an oil barge in Superior where tar sands oil would be shipped over the Great Lakes and other waterways.