Kalamazoo River cleanup suspended as cold weather hits Michigan

Energy Environment

The Kalamazoo Gazette reports Submerged oil cleanup finished in Kalamazoo River for the year
The newspaper quotes Jason Manshum, spokesman for Enbridge Energy Partners, as saying that the majority of submerged oil has been collected and crews are shifting to start winter cleanup. During the winter, the crews “will continue to address oil on the over banks of the river.”

Manshum added that because of dropping temperatures, the methods to extract submerged oil are not as effective

“However, there are still some remnants of submerged oil in the Kalamazoo River,” Manshum said. “The exact quantity is difficult to measure, but we are currently trying to calculate the remaining amount based on core samples from the river bottom. These core samples have been collected and are now being tested analytically to better understand the remnant amounts.”

The Gazette says that because the heavy biutmen sank to the bottom of the river and mixed with sediment, the crews had to innovate new methods to extract it.

This spring, the EPA identified about 200 acres of submerged oil in three areas: the Ceresco Dam; in Mill Pond, just east of Battle Creek; and where the Kalamazoo River enters Morrow Lake in Comstock Township. Manshum said that number is a snapshot of submerged oil at the time. Since the river is dynamic, the oil moved with the water at the bottom of the river.

Crews have removed oil from some areas of the river multiple times because of the movement, Manshum said. Enbridge and the EPA will continue to assess and clean the river until it is clean.

Oliver in media blitz hinting at pushing Northern Gateway in case US stops Keystone XL

Energy Environment Politics

Canada’s minister of natural resources, Joe Oliver,  has embarked on a media blitz, quietly pushing the idea that 


Canada will go ahead and build the Northern Gateway pipeline to send bitumen sands to Asia if the United States blocks the Keystone XL  pipeline from Alberta to Texas.

In a meeting with The Globe and Mail editorial board on Friday, and an interview with Reuters Monday, while attending the World Energy Council in Houston, Texas,  Oliver warns the American that if they don’t buy bitumen sands oil,  China will. 

 Speaking with the Globe and Mail editorial board Oliver said:

that he does not make this point to U.S. officials “unless they ask,” but “if they don’t want our oil….it is obvious we are going to export it elsewhere.”  

China could be a key customer in the future, he said. “As a broad strategic objective we have to diversify our customer base…..[and] China has emerged as the largest consumer of energy in the world, so it is utterly obvious what we must do.

Speaking with Reuters, Oliver made similar statements

What will happen if there wasn’t approval — and we think there will be — is that we’ll simply have to intensify our efforts to sell the oil elsewhere,” 

“It may be other parts of the United States, it may be a rerouted pipeline, and then, of course, there’s Asia.”

The Globe and Mail also reported that: 

Mr. Oliver did not specifically endorse the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline, which would carry oil sands petroleum to the west coast, where it would be transported to Asia by tanker, saying he will respect the regulatory process that is now evaluating that project.

Reuters also says Oliver did not specifically endorse Northern Gateway in that interview.  

Which means that Oliver has changed his tune a bit since becoming minister, since in the past he has been openly supportive of Northern Gateway “in the national interest” months before the Joint Review hearings on the pipeline are even due to begin.

In the Reuters interview,  Oliver, apparently determined to promote energy from the oil sands, for the  first time apparently, hinted that a bitumen pipeline might head somewhere to the east.

“What we want to do in respect to Asia, that objective is not mutually exclusive with the Keystone pipeline. We have a lot of oil and we want to get it to welcoming markets and open markets,” Oliver said. 

“And there are also possibilities of moving it east as well. We just have to look at the whole picture. But there would be a delay, and that wouldn’t be positive for either country in our view,” he said.

Oliver also told The Globe and Mail he does not use the “ethical oil,” agrument in talks with the United States, instead emphasizing that Canada is a reliable producer. Oliver also continued his criticism of the EUropean union for an initiative that would label crude from the oil sands as dirtier than fuel from conventional sources.
Oliver told the Globe that the European Commission’s proposed fuel quality directive is “discriminatory” and not based on science.

In a news release, summarizing Oliver’s speech in Houston, the Ministry of Natural Resources quoted Oliver this way:

“Canada’s vast energy endowments of oil, gas, hydro and uranium, along with an innovative clean energy sector, provide us with a unique advantage — one that strengthens our role as a safe and secure global energy supplier….
“We welcome international investment because it is good for our economy, for our jobs and for our energy future.”
Minister Oliver reaffirmed the Government of Canada’s commitment to ensuring the environmentally and socially responsible development of the oil sands, a strategic resource that is critically important to Canada and its energy partners. He noted Canada’s energy policy is rooted in free market principles, coupled with a regulatory regime that is “efficient, transparent and effective.”
“Canada is a responsible and reliable partner in achieving a secure and sustainable global energy supply. We are fully mindful of the need to balance economic activity and energy demand with environmental sustainability,” the Minister added. “The Government of Canada is committed to the development of our energy resources, including the oil sands, in an environmentally and socially responsible manner.”

(Photo Canada Ministry of Natural Resources)

Kinder Morgan buys US natural gas pipeline company in $21 billion dollar deal

Kinder Morgan, the giant oil pipeline company, which has proposed building a second bitumen pipeline from Alberta to Kitimat, Sunday announced it was buying El Paso Corp, America’s largest natural gas pipeline operator.

The Associated Press says the deal is worth $20.7 billion, Bloomberg says it is worth $21.1 billion.

Kinder Morgan already operates a pipeline from Alberta through British Columbia to the port of Vancouver and there are plans to expand that pipeline.

Kinder Morgan’s move comes after Enbridge also said it was interested in moving into the natural gas pipeline business. Both companies are moving to take advantage of the natural gas found in shale deposits and the growing demand for natural gas in both North America and Asia.


The takeover is the largest ever proposed of a pipeline company, surpassing the 2007 leveraged buyout of Kinder Morgan itself by a group including Richard Kinder and Goldman Sachs Group Inc. The combined company would have 67,000 miles (107,000 kilometers) of gas lines and eclipse Enterprise Products Partners LP as the biggest U.S. pipeline operator.

“This once in a lifetime transaction is a win-win opportunity for both companies,” Kinder, who will be chairman and chief executive officer of the combined company, said in the statement. He said the deal, once closed, would create immediate shareholder value because of its cash flow.

The Associated Press says

Kinder Morgan will more than double the size of its pipeline network by purchasing El Paso. The new pipeline system would stretch 80,000 miles — long enough to wind around the globe three times. Kinder Morgan’s pipelines in the Rocky Mountains, the Midwest and Texas will be woven together with El Paso’s expansive network that spreads east from the Gulf Coast to New England, and to the west through New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada and California.

“We believe that natural gas is going to play an increasingly integral role in North America,” said Richard Kinder, Kinder Morgan Inc.’s chief executive, said on Sunday when the deal was announced.

Robert McFadden, a Houston-based natural gas pipeline consultant, said the expanded network will make it easier to move natural gas from new fields that have mushroomed across the U.S. in the past few years.

The take over deal came on the same weekend that the “Occupy” movement was demonstrating around the world against the greed of financial institutions.

Reuters reports that:

The investment banks advising on Kinder Morgan Inc’s $21 billion purchase of El Paso Corp are set to rake in a total of $100 million to $145 million in M&A fees, according to Freeman & Co on Sunday.

Evercore Partners and Barclays Capital , which are advising Kinder Morgan on the deal, would earn $45 million to $65 million in fees, Freeman estimates show.

Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs , which are on El Paso’s side, would split another $55 million to $80 million in fees, depending on the role they played, the estimates show.

Accuracy is the best neutrality. It’s all about the bitumen.


Memo to my media friends and colleagues:

Last Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2011, the District of Kitimat sponsored an “educational forum” here at Mount Elizabeth Theatre on the controversial Northern Gateway pipeline project which, if approved, would carry bitumen from Alberta  to the port of Kitimat and on to Asia.
There was an hour of presentations  covering all sides the debate, followed by a question and answer period.

551-ngatepanel-thumb-500x230-550.jpgThe Enbridge educational forum in Kitimat, Sept. 20, 2011.  Left to right, Ellis Ross, Chief Counsellor, Haisla First Nation,  Mike Bernier, mayor of Dawson Creek, Greg Brown, environmental consultant and John Carruthers, President Enbridge Northern Gateway  Pipelines. (Robin Rowland/ Northwest Coast Energy News)

Throughout those two hours, the word used to describe the substance that could come to Kitimat through that pipeline was the word “bitumen.”   Panelists Ellis Ross, Chief Councillor of the Haisla First Nation,  John Carruthers, president of Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipelines talked about “bitumen,” so did environmental consultant Greg Brown, they all spoke about “bitumen.”  The questions from the audience were about “bitumen.”

Of course, after a couple of years of hearings,briefings and educational forums on the Northern Gateway pipeline project, with more to come (especially when the Joint Review Panel’s formal hearings begin here in January) the people of Kitimat are used to the word “bitumen.” Everyone from grade school kids to seniors know the right words to use, especially since Kitimat is also the site of proposed liquified natural gas projects (which introduced a whole new set of terminology.) 

When we talk about (and sometimes debate) the Northern Gateway project on the cross trainers and treadmills at the Riverlodge gym, the word used is “bitumen.”

While the Kitimat meeting was underway the rest of the continent, and especially the media  was focused on another pipeline project, the proposed Keystone XL project that would carry bitumen from Alberta down to Texas to be refined there.

So it was no real surprise when Open File Ottawa ran a short item by freelancer Trevor Pritchard on the debate over media use of the words “oils sands” vs the words “tar sands.”

Type in “Alberta tar sands” into Google, and you get 852,000 results. Perform a search for “Alberta oil sands” instead, and you end up with 334,000 results–not even half that. And if you change “Alberta” to “Alberta’s,” the gap widens even further.
So why do most media outlets tend to default to the phrase “oil sands”? Is “tar sands” pejorative? Or do both terms carry their own bias?

Pritchard pointed back to an article in the Tyee posted after the Calgary Herald attacked the late NDP leader Jack Layton for using the term tar sands.

Tyee quoted the Calgary Herald editorial (no longer visible on the web)this way:

Interestingly, the Calgary Herald didn’t so much take issue with the statements themselves, as it did with his vocabulary.
“It’s not what Layton said,” read an editorial from early April. “It’s the loaded and inaccurate language he used repeatedly, referring to the oil sands as ‘dirty’ and ‘tar sands’ — a word that’s part of the propaganda lexicon for radical environmentalists.”

Nearly two weeks later, the Herald was still ruminating about Layton’s and Obama’s language choices.
“Tar sands is inaccurate and pejorative,” wrote columnist Paula Arab.

In today’s polarized world, you might expect the Calgary Herald, in the centre of the Alberta oil patch, to be in favour of the term “oil sands” 

However, most of the mainstream media seem to have bought into the idea that if the sandy hydrocarbons found in northern Alberta are called “tar sands” (it certainly looks and smells and feels like tar) it is pejorative, while “oil sands” are neutral. As comments on both the Tyee and Open File stories show, those who tend toward the environmental point of view consider the term “oil sands” energy industry spin.

Open File asked the Canadian Press for their take on the subject, since the CP  Stylebook (like its equivalent from the AP in the United States) is considered the usage Bible not only for the Canadian media for most non-academic writing in the Canada.

Senior Editor  James McCarten responded:

Canadian Press style calls for the use of the term “oilsands” (all one word), as it is both the official term used by the petroleum industry and the least susceptible to misinterpretation or misunderstanding. It is also in keeping with accepted style for terms like “oilpatch” and “oilfield” — consistency is a critical element of any effective writing style.
It’s also important to choose the most neutral term available.

“Tarsands,” while at one time the industry’s chosen term, has been appropriated in recent years by opponents of the oil industry and has taken on political connotations, so we choose to avoid it.

To which commenter Raay Makers responded:

So let me get this straight: CP deems the term preferred by the petroleum industry “neutral,” while the term “appropriated” by opponents of the oil industry isn’t. They obviously have misconceptions of the meaning of the term neutral.

An hour after I read the Open File story,  I turned to CBC TV News and watched Margot McDiarmid’s item on the Keystone debate.  In her first reference to the Keystone pipeline, McDiarmid used the term “oil sands bitumen”  to describe what would go through the Keystone to Texas.  Relatively accurate. But then at the end of her item she said “oil” would be flowing through the Northern Gateway Pipeline to Kitimat.

Even though I worked in radio or TV for three decades and know the necessity to keep things as simple as possible  in a short item, I was appalled.  To describe the bitumen that is going  through those pipelines simply as “oil” is misleading and inaccurate.

If you’ve sat through briefings, attended hearings and read the documents, it is clear that bitumen behaves differently in a pipeline from conventional oil, whether it is crude oil or refined oil.

That difference is at the heart of the debate over both pipelines. It appears that no one outside  of the local media here in Kitimat and media along the Northern Gateway route seems to understand that difference, not even at the centre of the current debate about the Keystone XL in Nebraska.

So I checked. What term is the media using to describe what will flow through the Keystone and Northern Gateway pipelines?  The media is all over the place, calling it oil, crude oil, crude, tar sands oil, oil sands crude, oil sands bitumen.

I first checked the CBC.ca site:
 Max Paris in the written story tied to McDiarmid’s item uses “oil sands bitumen,”  the CBC interactive uses “oil sands crude.”

Today’s New York Times uses the term “oil pipeline” to describe the Keystone project.

In a Nebraska local paper, the Omaha World Herald, reporter Paul Hammel describes it as “a crude-oil pipeline”

In another local paper, the  Lincoln Nebraska, Journal Star   reporter Art Hovey uses “oil.”

An Associated Press story today, (at least as it appears on the Forbes site) is totally inconsistent, with the web friendly summary speaks about Keystone XL carrying “tar sands oil,” but the main body of the story calls it “oil.”

Reuters uses the term “oil” in this story 

An editorial  from Bloomberg uses “oil” in the lead

On first look, it might seem wrong to allow TransCanada Corp. to build the 1,700-mile Keystone XL pipeline to carry oil from Alberta, Canada, to the U.S. Gulf Coast. 

It goes on to eloquently describe the situation in Alberta’s sandy hydrocarbons

What’s more, a new conduit would seem to only encourage the further development of the Athabascan oil sands in Alberta. This is a dirty business, to be sure: Vast tracts of spruce and fir are cleared to make way for open-pit mines, from which deposits of sticky black sand are shoveled out and then rinsed to yield viscous tar. For deeper deposits, steam is shot hundreds of feet into the earth to melt the tar enough that it can be pumped to the surface. Then there are the emissions associated with mining Canadian oil sands: It produces two and a half times as much carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases as oil drilling in, say, Saudi Arabia or west Texas.

Bloomberg as you might expect from a business site, goes on to give the argument for building Keystone XL in terms of jobs and the economy (and in a much more measured way than the strident columnists in the Postmedia chain here)

Bloomberg concludes

Keep in mind, the U.S. is crisscrossed by thousands of miles of pipelines carrying crude oil, liquid petroleum and natural gas. One of these is the Keystone 1 pipeline, which already carries crude from the oil sands. Yes, these pipes sometimes leak — spectacularly last year when almost 850,000 gallons of oil spilled from a ruptured pipe in Michigan. Far more often, when leaks occur, they are small and self-contained.
After the public hearings, the U.S. should give TransCanada the green light — and then make sure the company manages pipeline design and construction with care.

Get the picture. As far as I can tell, no one, no one in the major news media is accurately describing what will flow through the Keystone XL and Northern Gateway pipelines. Again the accurate descriptions come from  the local media in northwestern BC who have attended years of local briefings and hearings. 

Oil comes from oil sands, right? Here is where the use of the term “oilsands’ leads to misleading coverage.  It is where senior editors at CP and other senior editors at other news organizations are wrong.  Saying oil or crude will flow through these specific pipelines does lead to  misinterpretation and misunderstanding and it comes directly from the ill advised use of the words “oil sands.”

Say “oil” and, although it is a generic term, most people think of the substance you put in an engine, ranging from the thick, black gooey stuff that goes into a two stroke boat engine, through the lighter oil that goes into your car or the even lighter oil used by model makers. “Petroleum” would probably be a better generic term.

553-giantcrude.jpgSay crude and  most people would think of  James Dean covered in the crude from the gusher in Giant or similar movie scenes. Or for those old enough to remember, they think of the opening of the Beverly Hillbillies when the “bubbling crude” comes out of the ground at Jed Camplett’s farm.

So what is going through the pipelines?  While Enbridge uses the term “oil” in its promotional brochure on Nothern Gateway (pdf file), in the briefings here Enbridge officials always talk of “bitumen.” They know that the people living in Kitimat, again whether supporter or opponent, have done their home work. Everyone here  knows it won’t be “oil” in the pipeline.  But it seems that the public relations branches of  Enbridge and TransCanada  still believe they can spin the media into reporting the pipelines will just be carrying oil.

So what is going to be in the Northern Gateway and Keystone XL pipelines? Read the documents filed with the Joint Review Panel and you find out it is “diluted bitumen”  (The bitumen from those sandy hydrocarbons in Alberta has to be diluted or it won’t flow through the pipeline.)

Documents filed with the Joint Review Panel by Stantec, an environmental consulting company based in Fredericton, New Brunswick,  hired by Enbridge, and frequently retained by the energy industry  uses this definition:

diluted bitumen A hydrocarbon consisting of bitumen diluted with condensate in order to reduce viscosity, rendering it suitable to be transported via a pipeline.  In addition to condensate, other subjects can be used as a dilutant (naptha and synthetic oil)

So what is condensate?

Again as defined by industry consultant Stantec condensate is:

condensate:  A low density mixture of hydrocarbon liquids that are present in raw natural gas produced from many natural gas fields or which condense out of raw gas if the temperature is reduced below the hydrocarbon dew point temperature of the raw gas.

(Another angle the media has ignored about the Northern Gateway project. While it carries diluted bitumen west from Alberta, there is a twin pipeline that carries the condensate east to Alberta.)

What to call the pipelines and the product?

So let’s talk about Northern Gateway and Keystone XL first.   These pipelines are different from the other pipelines that Bloomberg and other media say crisscross North America.

These pipelines will be carrying diluted bitumen, not oil, not crude.

When the public think of oil they think of a lubricant that enhances flow, not a gritty substance that has to be diluted before it can move. Diluted bitumen is a mixture of sand and soil and crude hydrocarbons, with various petrochemicals added to so that that mixture can actually get through the pipelines.

The use of diluted bitumen is raising all kinds of questions.   There were questions at last week’s forum on the effect of the friction from the sand on the stability of the pipelines.  There were questions at the forum about the corrosive nature of the condensate added to the bitumen on the stability of the pipelines.

These questions do not arise when it comes to conventional pipelines which have been built for the past century.

While there have been major oil spills for decades on land and sea, there has never been a major spill  of bitumen in either a pristine watershed or the ocean.  There has never been a major spill involving this mixture of  bitumen and condensate.  

Unfortunately, the ultimate answer to the question of how dangerous such as spill could be, will only be found out if there is disaster.

554-enbridgekitimatriver.jpgA photo map of the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline (in yellow) showing its route close to the Kitimat River, site of the town’s water supply. (Enbridge. Filed with the Joint Review Panel)

The Northern Gateway Pipeline follows the route of the Kitimat River. One of the most frequent questions is what happens to the town’s water supply if the pipeline breaks.

There are thousands of pages on the Joint Review Panel website that show that Enbridge and their consultants have done all kinds of tests, modelling and contingency planning to support their stand the pipelines  and the tankers are as safe as possible. There are documents from environmental groups and others that take the opposite position.

So to maintain its already shaky credibility the media must be accurate.  Accuracy is the best form of neutrality.

So here are my style/copy suggestions:

The media should call what is going into the Northern Gateway and Keystone XL pipelines  “diluted bitumen” on first reference and “bitumen”  on subsequent references.

It is NOT accurate to call it “oil.” It is not really accurate to call it “crude.”

It is  crude oil mixed with sand and the condensate chemicals.  To call what will go through the Northern Gateway and Keystone XL pipeline simply as oil  or crude is leading to gross  misinterpretation and  complete  misunderstanding.

The media should continue to use oil when they are referring to conventional oil flowing through a conventional pipeline.

The public isn’t stupid.  If you ask a Grade Three student in Kitimat about bitumen and condensate you’ll get a pretty good answer. If the media has to produce sidebars,  graphics, interactives, explainer items,  to explain what bitumen is, the sooner the better, so that those taking part in the debate and those reporting it know what they’re talking about.

Tar sands/Oil sands

It is clear that the Canadian  media managers who decided in the mid 2000s that the term “oil sands” was more neutral than “tar sands” blundered.

Yes the environmentalists do use “tar sands” and for some it can be pejorative.  But if you have ever seen the stuff it certainly is tar. 

Just as Enbridge uses “oil” in its brochure  on Northern Gateway but says the real thing “bitumen” in meetings, “oil sands” is the preferred energy industry spin term. The use of the term “oil sands” reduces media credibility.

Using “oil sands”  likely amplifies the general belief that the “corporate media” is in the pocket of big business and thus reduces the credibility  of the shrinking numbers of  hardworking reporters left working in the field.

387-Jointreviewbriefing_June_16_2011.jpgHere crowd sourcing and social media help. There are postings both on Open File and Tyee saying the terms “bitumen sands” or “bitumen-bearing sands” are proper neutral terms. I have used the term “sandy hydrocarbons” in this article, I came across it in a briefing document some while ago and it stuck in my mind (though I can’t remember where I saw it).

It is up to public editors, ombudspersons and style book editors to make the call here for their organizations.   I believe that if the media starts using “bitumen sands” as a technically accurate and neutral term for what is found in northern Alberta, the readers and viewers will  quickly accept it.

Staff of the Joint Review Panel brief residents of
Kitimat on the process, June 16, 2011.
(Robin Rowland/Northwest Coast Energy News

The big picture. Why isn’t the environment in the style books?

There is a bigger problem that I discovered when I was looking into this issue.  I checked the Canadian Press Stylebook to see what the editors said about the environment and found nothing. Absolutely nothing.  There are chapters on business news, entertainment, sports, even travel, but nothing on environmental coverage.

A very quick check with copy editor friends seems to have come up with same result across the media. Media stylebooks don’t consider the environment important enough to have a full chapter. (I may have missed some of course, the check was very quick) yet environmental stories are in the news every day.

The Associated Press was founded in 1848, in part so the New York newspapers could cooperate in getting the latest business news from Europe, first from ships and then from the transAtlantic cable.  So business news has been essential to the media  for at least a century and a half.  This, I believe, has created this historical, and probably   unintentional, institutional bias that favours word usage preferred by business.  If  media style books had  environment chapters then the question of  oil sands/tar sands would  have been considered more thoroughly and the “neutrality” of “oil sands” questioned. 

Who knows what other environmental issues have been considered only superficially because stylebooks don’t have a chapter on the environment?

Reporters in the field  are often left angry and frustrated by rulings from public editors and ombudspersons who may, despite their efforts, err on the side of  “neutrality” rather than “accuracy” especially in this era of extreme polarization.

Media managers often take the path of least resistance, especially if they are being inundated with complaining e-mails and letters. 

A stylebook chapter on the environment should stress accuracy over neutrality. Thus it serves the public.

A rigorous chapter in a media style book on the environment (and also on science which is also lacking) would give guidance to reporters in the field, editors at the desk  and allow managers to tell the complainers with agendas just how the issue has been examined.

This site has always used bitumen to describe what will be in the Northern Gateway Pipeline. From now on it will use bitumen sands in copy, and will use tar sands and oil sands in direct quotes as appropriate. I hope the rest of the media will follow.

Disclosure: I worked for CBC.ca from 1996 until I took early retirement in 2010. I have also freelanced for both Canadian Press and OpenFile.

 Glossary of terms used in Stantec environmental report (PDF excerpt from original file)

Natural Resources minister Joe Oliver continues to push Northern Gateway

Energy Links

 Conservative Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver is continuing to promote the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline.  In a speech to the Canadian Club in Toronto, Oliver promoted both the Keystone XL pipeline from the Alberta oil sands to Texas and the Northern Gateway pipeline through Kitimat.

The Globe and Mail reports in New pipelines crucial to expand energy exports: Minister

Canada needs projects like Enbridge Inc. Northern Gateway pipeline to provide crucial access to growing markets for the country’s energy exports, says Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver.

In remarks prepared for a speech Friday in Toronto, the Minister said the federal government would respect the regulatory review now being conducted on the Gateway project. But he made it clear Ottawa supports the construction of oil pipelines to the west coast, despite opposition from environmental groups and First Nations…..

Projects such as the proposed Northern Gateway Pipeline would connect Alberta’s oil sand to the port at Kitimat on the coast of British Columbia, where tankers could transport oil to Asian customers.”

While he said the government respects the regulatory process, he added: “It is a key strategic objective to diversify our customer base” beyond the U.S., which now accounts for 97 per cent of Canada’s oil exports.

The Associated Press also covered Oliver’s speech, as published in the Washington Post:

Canada’s natural resource minister says the country needs Enbridge’s proposed Northern Gateway pipeline to the Pacific coast to be built so that it can diversify its energy exports to China.

Natural Resource Minister Joe Oliver noted in a speech Friday that the U.S. is basically Canada’s only energy customer. Oliver says it is a key strategic objective to diversify the customer base.

But Aboriginal and environmental opposition to the Pacific pipeline is fierce. The opponents fear it will leak. The local member of Parliament, Nathan Cullen, has said accidents are inevitable in the rough waters around Kitimat, British Columbia, where the pipeline will end. And no one has forgotten the Exxon Valdez oil spill of 1989, some 800 miles (1,300 kilometers) north of Kitimat….

Sinopec, a Chinese state-controlled oil company, has a stake in a $5.5 billion plan drawn up by the Alberta-based Enbridge to build the Northern Gateway Pipeline from Alberta to the Pacific coast province of British Columbia.

Natural Resources Canada news release: Minister Oliver Touts Canada’s Energy Resources and Economic Strengths

Harper kills bitumen export ban, support for ocean monitoring group: reports

Energy Links

According to media reports,  Prime Minister Stephen Harper has killed support for the Pacific North Coast Integrated Area Management Initiative (PNCIMA) set up to monitor the ocean on the northern BC coast, while at the same time killing a plan to ban export of bitumen to countries with poor environmental records.

The Calgary Herald
, in Harper backs off from initiative that threatens opposition to Northern Gateway pipeline

Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government has withdrawn support from a deal with the B.C. government and First Nations due to concerns about excessive influence by U.S.-funded environmental groups in the development of an oceans management plan for the B.C. north coast….

There were specific concerns that a new plan being developed under the Pacific North Coast Integrated Area Management Initiative (PNCIMA) could be used to rally opposition to Calgary-based Enbridge Inc.’s proposed $5.5-billion Northern Gateway pipeline that would funnel diluted bitumen crude from Alberta’s oilsands sector to Asian markets docking at Kitimat, B.C.

A letter dated Sept. 1, and sent to the B.C. government, three First Nations groups and the environmental organization Tides Canada, said Ottawa is withdrawing support for a proposed agreement that would have resulted in $8.3 million, from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation of Palo Alto, California, to fund the PNCIMA process.

The letter, from Fisheries and Oceans Canada regional director general Susan Farlinger, said the government still intends to come up with an oceans management plan by 2012 in co-operation with B.C. and First Nations.

The Vancouver Sun reports Conservatives’ promise to restrict bitumen exports falls by wayside

The Harper government has quietly buried a controversial promise to ban bitumen exports to countries that are environmental laggards…

One person familiar with Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s surprise announcement during the 2008 federal election campaign said the pledge was simply electioneering at the time and was to be “buried and never seen again.”

Alberta’s energy minister also wonders whether the campaign promise is even a government policy any longer, noting the issue has never been discussed with him during his two years in the portfolio.

However, a spokeswoman for federal Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver said Wednesday the government policy — designed to halt the flow of raw bitumen and jobs overseas — remains in place but is being regularly examined.

Link Pacific North Coast Integrated Area Management Initiative

Editor’s note:A double standard?

On the issue of the PNCIMA, the controversy is over money for the organization from the foundation set up by the founder of Intel, Gordon Moore.

Moore is famous not only for starting the successful chip company but for Moore’s Law, which has governed the accelerating pace of technological change in the past decades and is described by Wikipedia in Moore’s original formulation: “The number of transistors that can be placed inexpensively on an integrated circuit doubles approximately every two years. This trend has continued for more than half a century…”  That simply means that computer processing power can be expected to double every two years.

The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, according to the Herald, called for the money to be channeled through a group called Tides Canada.

Support for Canadian environmental efforts by American foundations has long been the subject of a heated campaign by blogger Vivian Krause who told the Herald, “I’m pleased that taxpayers’ money will no longer further a foreign-funded campaign that is against Canadian interests,” Krause said, adding that foundation money should go to the developing world.

Krause says she is an independent commentator. She  once worked as Corporate Development Manager for North America for NUTRECO, one of the world’s largest producers of farmed salmon and fish feed but disassociates herself from current public relations campaigns by the fish farming industry.  Her online biography says she spent some part of her childhood in Kitimat.

Krause is a favourite of many of the right wing columnists across the PostMedia newspaper chain.

While Krause may have some valid points, one wonders why  for Krause and her supporters on the business pages across Canada, that it is perfectly acceptable for the billionaires in the transnational energy industry, many of them American, (as well as the state owned Chinese energy companies)   to spend corporate  millions supporting the oil sands and the pipelines, while is not acceptable for another American capitalist billionaire to spend his money earned in the free market to support his views on the preservation of the environment.


Obama press secretary questioned on anti oil sands demonstrations

Energy Environment links

U.S. president Barack Obama’s press secretary, Jay Carney, was asked about the continuing demonstrations  in Washington against the Alberta oil sands and the Keystone XL pipeline proposal during a “gaggle” (an informal news conference) aboard Air Force One en route to Minnesota today.

The White House released this transcript of the brief exchange:

Q Also, anything on these protests outside the White House on this
pipeline? Has the President decided against TransCanada’s permit for the
pipeline? It’s the tar sands pipeline. There have been a lot of arrests
outside the White House about it.

MR. CARNEY: I don’t have anything new on that. I believe the State
Department has — that’s under the purview of the State Department
presently, but I don’t have anything new on that.

Q Is the President aware of the protests?

MR. CARNEY: I haven’t talked to him about it.

Protestors have been demonstrating in a restricted area near the White House and are inviting arrest as part of an ongoing effort to stop the Keystone XL bitumen pipeline from Alberta to Texas. The latest celebrity to take part in the protests was actress Darryl Hannah, who was arrested today, as reported by The Guardian.

The State Department did give its approval to the Keystone XL pipeline on  Aug 26, saying, as reported in The Guardian.

The State Department said the proposed 1,700-mile pipeline would not cause significant damage to the environment.

The State Department in its report said the project – which would pipe more than 700,000 barrels a day of tar sands crude to Texas refineries – would not increase greenhouse gas emissions. It also downplayed the risks of an accident from piping highly corrosive tar sands crude across prime American farmland.

Campaigners accused the State Department of consistently overlooking the potential risks of the pipeline.

The largest anti-pipeline demonstration is expected on Sept. 2, when First Nations leaders are expected to join the protests in front of the White House.

As Keystone decision nears, new interest in pipeline safety, especially Enbridge

Links: Energy Environment

The US State Department will announce its decision on the Keystone XL bitumen pipeline from Alberta to Texas as the Calgary Herald reported on July 22

The U.S. State Department said Friday that it will wrap up its
examination of environmental impacts of a proposed Canadian pipeline
expansion from the oilsands in less than a month in order to ensure a
final decision on the controversial project by the end of the year…

Daniel Clune, the principal deputy assistant secretary from the U.S.
Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs,
said that the department would consider a variety of factors, including
recent developments such as a major pipeline spill on the Yellowstone
River, instability in Libya affecting global oil supplies, as well as
this week’s announcement by Canadian Environment Minister Peter Kent
that Canada would increase its monitoring of the impact of oilsands
activity based on recommendations from scientists.

A couple of weeks before the State Department ruling, the US Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) Technical Pipeline Safety Standards Committee (TPSSC) and the Technical Hazardous Liquid Pipeline Safety Standards Committee (THLPSSC) will meet in Arlington, Virginia  on  August 2, 2011 to consider draft pipeline safety recommendations  for the United States called `The State of the National Pipeline Infrastructure–A Preliminary
Report.”   The public had until July 13, 2011, to make submissions to be considered
by the subcommittee members prior to submission of their draft
recommendations to the overall committees.

There is a web page from the PHMSA on the July, 2010, Marshall, Michigan, Enbridge pipeline break and spill.

The National Post updates the Marshall Enbridge spill with a report Aftermath of a Spill by Sheldon Alberts.

Now, one year later, local residents and U.S. authorities are taking
stock of the toll. A National Transportation Safety Board investigation
into what caused the two metre gash in the pipeline is ongoing, with its
conclusion perhaps months away.

The Kalamazoo, which in normal
summers would be flush with paddlers and recreational fishermen, is
still closed to the public as a massive effort to clean up the remaining
oil – most of it now submerged on the riverbed – continues.

raging is the heated debate that the Enbridge spill ignited in the
United States and Canada over the safety of pipelines – some new, others
decades old – that carry oil sands bitumen to markets in America’s

TransCanada’s new pipeline project worries U.S. agency: Calgary Herald

Calgary Herald

 TransCanada’s new pipeline project worries U.S. agency

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has expressed new fears about the safety of Calgary-based TransCanada Corp.’s proposed Keystone XL oilsands pipeline, warning decision makers in the Obama administration to “carefully consider” whether the project’s proposed route through ecologically sensitive areas in the U.S. Great Plains is appropriate.

 In a letter to the State Department, the EPA said two recent leaks that shut down the existing Keystone pipeline highlight the need to require the Canadian company to take more rigorous steps to limit the threat of a major spill on the new line.

US orders Keystone pipeline shut down after leaks: Globe and Mail

The Globe and Mail 

U.S. regulators have barred TransCanada Corp. from restarting its Keystone pipeline until the company can provide more proof that the system is safe, after several leaks in just a year of operation….. 

 Following at least three Keystone leaks in May, the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration took sudden action Friday. It issued a corrective action order that mandates 14 steps TransCanada must take before resuming operations, including demands for information, mechanical and metallurgical testing and a report on all issues and incidents on the line…. 

 For Canada’s oil and gas industry, the Keystone outage is just the latest in a series of pipeline-related headaches. A major Michigan spill on an Enbridge Inc. pipeline last summer resulted in rolling outages that lasted until this spring, as the company worked to fix problems on the line

US Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Administration order to shut down the Keystone pipeline (PDF)