Posts Tagged ‘ Alberta ’

Second megaload approaching the Montana Border

So, workers have been preparing Reserve St. in Missoula for the passage of the first two giant megaloads headed to Billings. The second load of the two will be moved to withing five miles of the Montana border tonight sometime after 10pm. It is assumed that sometime next week Exxon will send a test load through that same corridor that gave Cnnoco/Phillips trouble.

All this come at the same time that Nez Perce Tribal members met with reps from Canada’s First Nations. George Poitras, former chief of the Mikisew Cree First Nation, met with Nez Perce tribal members and officials where they discussed the impact mining the Alberta Tar Sands has had on the people of the area, the land, and Native Sovereignty. regarding Exxon Mobil, NPTEC Treasurer Joel Moffett said, “It’s taking a stand, making a statement saying, ‘if you guys are going to be conducting business as such, destroying the earth, destroying the livelihoods of indigenous peoples, how can we support you?’ We’re not going to do business with you. That’s something that we can do and I would support terminating the contract with ExxonMobil. Anything we can do to help you.”

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First Imperial Oil loads to arrive in Lewiston Thursday!

The first of the Imperial Oil boatload is destined to arrive at the Port of Lewiston tomorrow. This load will contain the first eight modules to be transported by Imperial Oil to the Alberta Tar Sands. This, all before the Idaho Supreme court has had a chance to make a ruling on the Conoco/Phillips shipments, a ruling that will certainly impact future oil companies’, including Imperial’s, chance to drive the Highway 12 gauntlet.

The shipment was brought up the river from the Port of Vancouver, WA. a two and a half day trip. The modules will be off-loaded under the watchful eyes of a hired security squad who will erect a perimeter around the port to keep out pesky Idaho residents and other interested parties.

If the trucks are going to move, however, is still dependent on the ruling from the Idaho courts.

More horrific implications dwarf concerns over traffic delays

It has been said here before, with much confidence, that to allow the Kearl Module Transport Project to proceed will open a Pandora’s Box of industrialization in the inland Northwest.  In particular, the establishment of an ongoing culture of supplying equipment to the Tar Sands of Alberta by means of high-wide truck transport through the region.  In a certain sense, we here in the northern Rockies are facing the decision of whether or not to invite some new neighbors to the ‘hood.  There seems little doubt that this controversy would be understood were these new neighbors registered sex offenders, or perhaps another white supremacist club so common in this region, but when the newest immigrants to our community are the world’s largest, wealthiest capitalist organizations, a certain sense existing somewhere between apathy and defeat takes hold of the discourse.  With this in mind, and following the absurd precedent of corporate personhood, let’s consider for a moment just who we are opening our arms wide for.

A Look at ExxonMobil

The world’s largest publicly traded institution, regularly posting world record-setting profits, is ExxonMobil.  This direct descendant of tycoon John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil Company is the result of the remerging of Exxon and Mobil, two entities previously joined in a monopoly and forced to split under anti-trust laws.  Time has been good to this mega-corporation.  The same cannot be said for how the company has been to the rest of the world.

In 1989, ExxonMobil spilled 11 million gallons of oil near Valdez, AK causing environmental damage that we are still dealing with today.  At the time, the ExxonValdez oil spill in Prince William Sound was without doubt the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history, and today remains near the top of the list.  Some 1200 miles of pristine coastline became coated with crude oil, untold numbers of seabirds and other wildlife died as a result of contact with the spill, and desperate cover up efforts resulted in the literal deaths of once-biodiverse beaches.  A court ordered the company in 1994 to pay 4.5 billion dollars in damages to the 33,000 Alaskan Natives and non-native fishermen who’s livelihoods were harmed by the spill.  Today, Exxon has still not paid up despite posting over $250 billion in profits in just the last 10 years.  Since the ruling, over 6000 of the plaintiffs have passed away while waiting in vain for compensation.

“Cleanup” crews sterilize once thriving beaches with high-pressure steam. As the oil washed away, so did all remaining biodiversity.

ExxonMobil’s flagrant disregard for its responsibility to the people it affected is merely a part of a long precedent it has set.

In 1990, a month after ExxonMobil spilled over half a million gallons of oil from a pipeline into the waters between Staten Island and New Jersey, the company was sued by the city of New York for falsifying safety reports after Exxon admitted that the pipeline’s leak detection system had not worked for 12 years.

In 1991, the EPA sued Exxon for again tainting the waters near Valdez, AK, this time with ballast waste water. That same year the EPA also fined Exxon for discharging contaminated fluids from service stations directly into or above underground drinking water sources around the country.  Since then, Exxon has been accused of continuing to ignore such crimes it has committed repeatedly.

In 1993, Exxon was sued for knowingly bypassing air pollution control equipment at its Linden, NJ Bayway refinery. Come 1995, Exxon was sued over violations of the Clean Water Act and the resource conservation and recovery act in Louisiana.

Exxon’s Bayway refinery in Linden, NJ

In 1998, they were sued by the Department of Justice for clean air act violations, sued for discharging selenium (a carcinogen) into San Francisco Bay, and sued for excess levels of carcinogens in industrial wastes in Louisiana. That same year, Exxon heavily publicized a petition supposedly signed by 17,000 “scientists” that dismissed the scientific consensus on global warming. The petitions was supposedly endorsed by the National Academy of Sciences, but the NAS itself later condemned the petition as a fake. Since then, Exxon has spent over $23 million to fund over 40 organizations per year that seek to discredit climate change, a practice which continues to this day despite claims in 2006 that the company was ending such funding.

In 2000, Exxon was convicted of defrauding Alabama on royalties from gas wells in state waters, and they settled a suit against it and 9 other companies for underpaying the government hundreds of millions of dollars in drilling royalties for federal lands leases. And in 2001, they were sued by Texas for extracting oil & gas from state land without permission.

Though the Valdez disaster rates as the most well known of Exxon’s crimes, it should not be forgotten that they were sued by the International Labor Rights fund over the corporation’s complicity in human rights abuses in Indonesia during the Suharto regime.  The company contracted the Indonesian army to provide security for gas projects on Sumatra, and villagers were subsequently murdered, tortured, kidnapped and raped. Exxon supplied the barracks in which villagers were tortured as well as the excavators used to dig mass graves.

Exxon has given high-paying jobs to former White House officials who falsified government reports to favor the oil industry’s positions and has engaged in practices of union-busting around the globe, notably in places such as Columbia and Peru where indigenous communities are being forcibly evicted to make way for Exxon projects.  It has traded illegally with countries such as Sudan, in violation of official sanctions, has been the subject of countless anti-trust suits since the 1800s, when ExxonMobil was known as Standard Oil, and is responsible for 41 Superfund sites in 17 states.

An Industry-wide Culture

Just as the emerging high-wide corridor in the northern Rockies exceeds limiting utilization to just one company, so too does this culture of disregard for social and environmental rights.  The oil industry as a whole self-perpetuates a reputation for horrific crimes against humanity and the Earth.

The Niger Delta region has suffered from the equivalent of a BP Gulf spill every year for several decades, and armed resistance groups have emerged against the oil giants.

From political assassinations and civilian massacres in defense of Shell and ChevronTexaco’s operations in the Niger delta as well as that region’s ongoing environmental devastation, to BP’s cover up of ecocide in the already precarious Gulf of Mexico, the companies behind this abuse of our landscapes and communities in the northern Rockies have given us no reasonable assurance that we are not becoming the next in a long line of disposable populations and sacrifice zones in Big Oil CEO’s exploitation of the planet for personal gains.

ExxonMobil’s and other tar sands exploiters have only one purpose on this planet: to maximize profits for their shareholders.  We in the northern Rockies are faced with the chance to acquiesce or stand our ground against the Kearl Module Transport Project and the tar sands.  Let us not go quietly into the night….

Schweitzer Waves White Flag on Big Rigs

(reposted from 4&20 Blackbirds) (we hope they’re not angry)

By JC

super sized

It seems that in lieu of any rational economic development proposals from Governor Brian Schweitzer (D-Imperial/Exxon) to mitigate the impacts of the collapse of the housing construction (timber) industry and Stone Container, it is best to lay down and let another multinational corporation walk all over us:

“If I could wave a magic wand and get Stone Container open again and get the timber industry going again, I’d do that,” Schweitzer said Friday. “In lieu of that, $68 million worth of road work and flaggers and utility work along the highways – I guess we’ll take it. It’s $68 million worth of jobs [associated with the Kearl big rig project].”

Well, no. 32 million of those 63 million oil dollars are the cost of transport. Not jobs or mitigation costs. Those are dollars paid to out of state/country employees to move the dang things–not jobs for locals. Never mind that the project will disrupt traffic along highways 12 and 200 in western Montana, and create safety hazards and emergency response nightmares. It’s full speed ahead, damn the EA:

“[Schweitzer] scoffed at fears that western Montana will become a permanent vessel for big rigs to the Canadian oil fields and elsewhere.

“That’s not the proposal at all,” he said. “This is temporary for 200 loads and nobody’s proposed a permanent corridor. That’s why it’s an (environmental assessment) and not an (environmental impact statement).”

Except, Governor Big Oil, Exxon did “Propose to create permanent ‘High/Wide Corridor’s through Montana”, as revealed in this MDOT presentation prepared by MDOT Director Jim Lynch last July:
permanent corridor

Of course, in the another quote from him in the Missoulian article, he contradicts himself by saying he’ll try harder the next time a proposal like this comes along:

The governor said he pitched hard – “but I’ll pitch even harder next time” – to see that the equipment to be hauled through the state is built “in some place like Great Falls or Cut Bank or Havre, as opposed to being built in Korea.”

So you say we need an EIS if it is going to be a permanent corridor? Then you’d better order Exxon and MDOT to get to work on an EIS. Or are you just a liar? How dumb do you think we are that you think we can’t read and put 2+2 together???

Even Missoula’s City Council recognizes the falsehoods behind those who want to dismiss this project as a one-off needing just an EA, and have prepared a resolution dated May 10th, 2010 that one would assume would be presented to City Council soon:

WHEREAS, the construction required for these large loads will create a permanent high/wide corridor through Montana and Missoula that will attract the interest of additional oversize trucking projects destined for Alberta, as set forth in the draft Environmental Assessment’s (EA) Past, Present and Reasonably Foreseeable Impacts section and in MDT Director Jim Lynch’s 2009 “Proposed High and Wide Corridors Briefing” to a Montana Legislature committee; and

WHEREAS, the draft EA’s Purpose of the Project does not address the creation of a permanent corridor to serve future oversize;

NOW, THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, the Missoula City Council hereby declares that complying with the spirit and letter of MEPA and NEPA will require environmental review taking the form of a programmatic joint EIS under MEPA and NEPA and urges MDT to begin such a process in cooperation with affected or involved federal agencies, fully involving the public and exhaustively evaluating the impacts of creating a permanent high/wide commercial transportation corridor from the Port of Vancouver to the Alberta tar sands.

PASSED AND ADOPTED this 10th day of May, 2010.

So folks, get out there and make sure this resolution passes City Council, and get on Schweitzer’s case about his blatant lying here.

And the Clark Fork Coalition noted in its Take Action bulletin that:

“The Port of Lewiston anticipates that “If one oil company is successful with this alternate transportation route, many other companies will follow their lead.” It is obvious that this route is planned to be a permanent industrial corridor to be in use for the forseeable future.”

Somebody needs to get his head out of Imperial/Exxon’s ass the sand and call for a full blown EIS.

Organize against the Tar Sands? From here?

Ok all,

The Environmental Assessment for the Kearl Oil Sands Project shipments just came out. Now is the time to jump on organizing around this issue. There are a few things in place already, and we’ve had some talks with regional and local organizers along the shipment path, lawyers, etc. Now it the time to start building a strong local opposition to this project.

If you don’t know, Exxon Mobile, through a subsidiary called Imperial Oil, is developing yet another devastating Tar Sands mine in northern Alberta. They are bringing giant trucks carrying equipment for the project through Missoula this fall. This issue not only involves our state and country subsidizing the work of a giant exploitative corporation, but also our country remaining complacent through the expansion of what some have called the most destructive project in the world. This shipment route through Idaho and western Montana is one of the few opportunities for local communities to take on the international issue of the Tar Sands from our side of the border. Let’s show ‘em what we got.

There is more information on our website , if you care to peruse it before coming to—-

A MEETING CONCERNING THE SHIPMENTS!!
Wednesday 14th (tonight)
5:15 PM
Jeanette Rankin Peace Center (back door)
519 South Higgins Avenue

Montana DOT Environmental Assessment

Stop Tar Sand Mining Now!

The world’s largest, and possibly dirtiest industrial operation has frightening implications reaching far from the northern Canadian forest in which it is centered. As peak oil passes us by and industrial civilization’s thirst for exploitation of fossil fuels continues to grow, northern Alberta, Canada has become host to what is perhaps the greatest organized danger to life on Earth, ever. Old-Growth deforestation, huge levels of climate change-causing carbon emissions, poisoned watersheds, colonial encroachment, damaging social impacts, pipelines and road-building into wild places, wars, toxic wastelands… all in the interest of western materialism and the energy-industry’s profits; with the Alberta Tar Sands at the center. The tar sands are having an impact on the US’s northern Rockies as well (see also: this and this), and Northern Rockies Rising Tide is joining the fight to stop them.

Tar sands (aka, oil or bituminous sands) are mixtures of soil, water and extremely dense petroleum called bitumen. The largest known deposits of tar sand are in northern Alberta, Canada. The Alberta Tar Sands deposits cover an area roughly the size of Florida, under some of the largest old-growth forest left in the world, and they are being dug up.

Tar sands exploitation is the newest and most rapidly growing sector of the petroleum industry, due to dwindling reserves of conventional oil and the relatively young technology required to make tar sand mining profitable. Tar sand deposits can be found around the globe, however Alberta’s deposits are believed to contain as many barrels of crude as the entire world’s reserves of conventional oil (around 1.7 trillion barrels).

Tar sands account for nearly half of Canada’s oil production and, because of increasing production, Canada is now the single largest supplier of oil to the United States. Aside from a small (and declining) tar sands industry in Venezuela, Canada is the world’s only commercial producer of bitumen oil.

The first tar sand mine (Suncor) opened in 1967. The second, the Syncrude mine which began operations eleven years later, is today the largest mine of any type in the world. The third began only in 2003. Today, due to high demand and dwindling supply of conventional oil reserves, there are nearly 100 tar sand projects (comprised of 3200 mining leases, covering an area the size of Maryland) planned in Canada, with $200 billion dollars invested. These operations include not only the mines themselves, but also trans-continental pipelines, refineries, road construction and super-oil tankers and ports for overseas distribution.

First Nations communities downstream of tar sand mines are facing threats to their physical health, the health of their landbase, and their sovereignty. They are reporting increased cases of respiratory and cardiovascular diseases, multiple sclerosis and rare types of cancer due to toxic wastes leaching into the waterway from tailings ponds. Also arsenic, at 33 times the acceptable level, is being found in game meats which local First Nations people rely on; as well as some animals being found with tumors and mutations. Hunting is also becoming more difficult as habitat is being destroyed and wildlife disturbed. The tar sands are being developed on land that has never been ceded (formally surrendered) by First Nations, and the communities are neither being consulted nor compensated for the destruction of their lands.

Conventional crude oil is normally extracted from the ground by drilling oil wells into a petroleum reservoir and allowing oil to push out, or else be pushed or pumped out of the ground. (Think Kuwait or Beverly Hills or off-shore oil rigs). Tar sands, however, being as much solid as they are liquid, require more effort to extract. The easiest method is strip mining, though some newer mines heat and dilute the bitumen underground to make it flow easier. Once removed from the ground, bitumen is too viscous to flow through pipelines as conventional crude does. Therefore it is next converted into synthetic oil (called upgrading) to aid transport. These processes can use huge quantities of sometimes scarce water and require so much electricity that one tar sand mine has considered building a nuclear power plant just to power the mine!

Tar sands mining causes an extraordinary, and often permanent, detriment to the environment. Air monitoring near Fort McMurray, Alberta, as well in the areas near tar sand upgraders, has recorded excessive levels of toxic hydrogen sulfide (the gas responsible for “rotten egg” odors), as well as nitrogen oxides, sulphur dioxide and particulate matters; and one tar sand exploiter, Suncor Energy, received an Environmental Protection Order from the government of Alberta in 2007 as a result. 

Clearcutting old-growth boreal forest.

Surface mining of tar sand irreversibly destroys the land being mined. The mining site is cleared of all vegetation, often old-growth boreal forest, and tar sand developement is the cause of the second-fastest rate of deforestation on the planet behind the clearing of the Amazon rainforest. Then the top 50 meters or so of earth (called “overburden”) is blasted and removed, exposing the tar sand deposit. The largest power shovels and dumptrucks in the world (up to 400 tons, some of which are being shipped through northern Idaho and western Montana) are used to dig up the tar sand deposit, of which about two tons is required to produce just one barrel of oil (about 1/8 of a ton). Just one mine in Alberta has dug up more earth than the Great Pyramid, the Suez Canal, the Great Wall of China and the world’s ten largest dams combined. Surface mining also leaves behind large quantities of toxic chemicals making the land unlivable, even if some semblance of “reclamation” occurs. The Canadian boreal forest is one of the largest old-growth forests left on the planet, and stores more carbon per acre than any other ecosystem anywhere.

In some mines, each barrel of oil requires up to 4.5 barrels of water to produce it. Tar sand operations in northern Alberta use twice as much water as Calgary, a city of over one million people. Most of this water comes from the Athabasca River, which is already facing reduced flow due to shrinking of the once mighty Columbia Ice Fields and Athabasca glacier. Despite attempts at recycling the water, almost all of it ultimately ends up in toxic tailings ponds contaminated with coke, asphaltenes, sulphur, heavy metals and sewage. For every barrel of oil, six barrels of tailings are produced. Tar sand tailings ponds, visible to the unaided eye from space, are so large that one is held back by the world’s third-largest dam. These tailings are often stored dangerously close to the Athabasca river and threaten the health of the whole ecosystem downstream. A recent Environmental Defense report states that nearly 3 million gallons of tailings are already leaking into the watershed each year. With currently-proposed projects, that could grow five-fold within the next couple of years. The ponds are so toxic that in one incident over 500 ducks were killed when the flock landed during migration. Most ponds require noise-makers that deter waterfowl from landing, but some 8000 birds are oil-soaked and killed each year in the ponds. It is believed that over the next few decades, some 160 million birds will die from habitat loss and mistaken contact with tailings ponds.

Communities near the tar sands, who supposedly benefit from jobs created by the industry, are experiencing increased levels of substance abuse, rape & family violence, as well as increased housing costs and decreased housing availability due to the influx of thousands of people coming to work at the tar sands. Homelessness in Edmonton, the nearest large city, increased 19% in 2006 due to Canadian internal migration occurring faster than the city can grow its social services and housing infrastructure. Fort McMurray, the largest town in the tar sands area, has the highest suicide rate for 18-24 year old men in Canada and lacked 70 out of 72 quality of life indicators in one ranking. Oil companies are now beginning to more heavily use guest-worker programs, undermining the ability of unions to influence work conditions, and exploiting the people traveling to Canada to work the tar sands.

Tar Sand Operations

Tar sand mining emits even more climate change causing greenhouse gas (GHG) than conventional oil production, by a factor of 3 to 1. Not including the emissions from tailpipes and smokestacks when the refined oil is eventually burned, Alberta’s tar sands mines account for 0.1% of global GHG emissions. This is a huge portion when considering it is coming from only 0.0000008% of the Earth’s surface. And the industry is growing! Within the next five years, total GHG emissions from tar sands mining is expected to be 108 to 125 megatons per year.

Carbon sequestration (trapping carbon emissions underground), is often touted as the “green” answer to fossil fuel based industries. However, while up to 90% of emissions from conventional oil production may be trapped and stored with current technology (though it is economically infeasible to do so), only 10% can be trapped from bitumen production. In addition, the first sequestration plant is not expected to be operational until 2030, and oil companies doubt sequestration will be widely used before 2050. The method is untested in the long-term and is not proven to be a permanent solution, as leakage is believed to occur.

Such extreme amounts of electricity are used to mine tar sand that in 2007 one company applied for a permit to build a nuclear power plant near its operations, however, most of the energy comes from burning natural gas. Tar sand mining uses enough gas to heat 3 million homes, and this diversion of resources is causing a return to even dirtier coal-fired electrical generation for domestic use.

Current plans for Canada’s fossil fuel industry will propel the country’s emissions to 44% beyond what it is allowed by the Kyoto Treaty, of which it is a signatory.

courtesy of Magnolia Pictures

Since the majority of U.S. imports of oil come from Canada, and the largest institutional consumer of oil in the world is the U.S. military (about 340,000 barrels per day), the Alberta tar sands are literally fueling the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere. Wars over oil, made possible by oil. Wars on people, wars on the land, wars on ourselves. It is time to stop the Tar Sands!

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