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Lac Mégantic: Don’t Blame the Engineer July 29, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Canadian Mining, Energy, Environment.
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Roger’s note: If a welfare mom get caught shoplifting to feed her children or a Black youth is apprehended with a few ounces of marijuana, depending upon the jurisdiction, they could face years in prison.  If elected politicians backed by avaricious capital enact legislation creating risks to thousands that result in massive deaths, they face no consequences.  This is a metaphor for our capitalist economic system where profit trumps human life.  This is not free enterprise.  it is profit, greed and oppression backed by the so-called law.

How easy it would be to lay the blame for the tragedy in Lac-Mégantic on the engineer who ran the train. But the real responsibility lies with the governments on both sides of the border who have deregulated their transport sectors, gutted freshwater protections and promoted the

(Photo: Ryan Remiorz/AP)spectacular growth and transport of new and unsustainable fossil fuels.

Starting back in the 1970s, the US government deregulated rail transport, allowing deep staff reductions, the removal of brakemen from trains and lower safety standards for shipping hazardous materials. Canadian governments followed suit and allowed the railways to self-regulate safety standards and continue to ship oil in the older, accident-prone tanker cars of the kind that crashed into Lac-Mégantic.

Just last year, Transport Canada gave Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railways the green light to run each train with just one engineer, which explains how one man came to be in charge of 72 cars and five locomotives carrying combustible energy through inhabited communities.

The Harper government, meanwhile, has gutted environmental regulation and freshwater protection in order to speed up the development of the Alberta tar sands.

Its victims include the Fisheries Act, the Navigable Waters Protection Act and the whole environmental assessment process. Ninety-nine percent of all lakes and rivers in Canada, including Lac-Mégantic, are no longer protected from pipelines carrying bitumen or fracked oils near, around or under them.

The Quebec government estimates that at least 5.6 million litres of crude oil has escaped into the environment.

Both the American and Canadian governments have chosen to subsidize and promote the production of fracked oil and gas as well as heavy oil from tar sands operations over conservation and alternative, renewable sources of energy. The tankers that slammed into Lac-Mégantic were carrying shale oil from the Bakken fields in North Dakota, a deposit being mercilessly mined, as are many other sites across North America, in spite of their direct threat to local water supplies and human health.

The energy industry has plans to increase production in the Alberta tar sands five-fold, and is now shipping raw, unrefined bitumen, diluted with heavy chemicals, across the continent, by pipeline, railcar tankers and on ships on the Great Lakes. Shipments of oil by rail have increased by 28,000 percent since 2009 and barges and ships carry almost 4 million tons of oil and petroleum products (about 4 billion litres) to or from U.S. Great Lakes ports every year and more between Canadian ports.

Some are using this tragic rail accident as an argument in favour of the controversial oil pipelines. But pipelines also pose a serious threat to human health and the environment when they carry hazardous materials. The International Energy Agency says that pipelines spill far more oil than rail.

On average, in Alberta alone there are an average of two spills every day — over 770 spills every year. The danger of increased shipments of tar sands oil across the Great Lakes cannot be exaggerated.

The combination of a dramatic increase in North American fossil fuel production combined with deregulation of modes of oil and gas transportation and the removal of almost all protections for Canada’s freshwater heritage is a recipe for further accidents, spills and tragedies. Those who do not learn from their mistakes are bound to repeat them.

All across the country, we are in mourning for the victims of this accident. The very least we can do for the families and friends of lost loved ones in Lac-Mégantic is right the wrongs that led to that terrible night.

Ottawa Sit-In to Protest Federal Support of Oilsands September 26, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Energy, Environment.
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Published on Monday, September 26, 2011 by Postmedia News

by Trish Audette

Environmental groups are hoping to trigger what they call the “largest civil disobedience action in the history of Canada’s climate movement” Monday in Ottawa — a sit-in on Parliament Hill to protest federal government support of Alberta’s oilsands.

“This isn’t about condemning anybody that works in the tarsands or oilsands industry. This is about presenting choices,” said Greenpeace campaigner Mike Hudema. Monday’s action takes aim at Alberta’s oilsands as a whole, but the effort piggybacks on growing American and Canadian attention to the proposed $12-billion Keystone XL pipeline extension. (photo: Peter Blanchard)

The Edmonton-based activist said he hopes people do not see the protest as an attack on Alberta, but as a bid for a “clean-energy economy.”

Monday’s action takes aim at Alberta’s oilsands as a whole, but the effort piggybacks on growing American and Canadian attention to the proposed $12-billion Keystone XL pipeline extension.

As U.S. lawmakers draw closer to deciding whether to approve the massive project, expected to eventually pump 900,000 barrels of raw bitumen daily from Hardisty, Alta., across nine states to refineries in Texas, the pipeline proposal has become a magnet for wider environmental and economic debate on Alberta’s oilsands production. Where environmental activists weigh in against bolstering fossil fuel development, Canadian unions and even former Alberta premier Peter Lougheed have raised questions about exporting jobs. Across the U.S., meanwhile, local organizations worry about backyard environmental issues — including worst-case scenarios for the pipeline’s impact on the Ogallala Aquifer in Nebraska.

“It’s been an interesting year, and yeah, it’s been challenging,” said Shawn Howard, a spokesman for TransCanada, the Calgary-based company building the pipeline.

In the wake of the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and the 2010 Enbridge pipeline rupture that affected the Kalamazoo River in Michigan, however, Howard said it was no surprise to find the Keystone XL project in the cross-hairs.

“That changes how people look at an entire industry, not just a single project,” Howard said. “All we can do is point to our industry-leading safety and operating record as something we’re proud of.”

Despite industry assurances — and efforts by members of the Alberta government to intercede by meeting with their American counterparts — opposition to the project drew a range of activists to Washington, D.C. last month for a two-week protest during which about 1,250 people were arrested, including actresses Daryl Hannah, Margot Kidder and Tantoo Cardinal.

Hudema called the Washington action an inspiration for his and other organizations — including the Sierra Club, the Council of Canadians, the Polaris Institute and the Indigenous Environmental Network — which hope more than 100 people will meet in front of the House of Commons on Monday and then move in groups into the building, where they anticipate arrest. Hudema said he expects protesters will arrive from across Canada, including from Alberta.

“It’s more about the tarsands in general, but of course the pipelines are a big part” of the fight, Hudema said. “The pipelines are what are going to allow or prevent the tarsands from expanding (or) the damage from getting significantly bigger.”

Business observers aren’t so sure the protests will capture public imagination to the point where approval for the Keystone XL project stumbles, however — even in light of mass arrests.

“When they put their mind to it they can really put on a good show of force and make a strong statement,” said David MacLean, vice-president of the Alberta Enterprise Group. Since 2008, MacLean’s Edmonton-based umbrella group has taken a cross-section of business leaders and politicians to Washington to talk about and defend the oilsands.

“The debate is so many levels,” MacLean said, including the need for oilsands companies to improve their environmental records.

But also, he said, there is a public-relations battleground.

“Sometimes it means getting your hands dirty because this is a fight.”

And the province’s role in the fight has not gone unnoticed by members of industry or the protesters taking on bitumen extraction, its carbon footprint, tailings ponds and pipelines. Where business people applaud the efforts of ministers and provincial politicians to tell Alberta’s oil story in the United States and abroad, activists like Hudema accuse the government of having become a “mouthpiece” for the oilsands.

“I think industry has asked the government to make sure that we represent what’s true in Alberta and what we represent when we go to America is the Alberta story, which isn’t so much in defence of industry,” International and Intergovernmental Relations Minister Iris Evans said.

Since January, her department and the premier’s office have spent about $92,500 on missions to the U.S. to discuss Alberta-produced energy and build relationships.

Evans is hoping the next premier — to be selected by Progressive Conservatives on Oct. 1 — will visit Washington later this fall as Keystone XL hearings continue, to gauge impacts on residents along the proposed pipeline route.

“I guess you could characterize (protests) as certainly distractions on that front, but I don’t want to belittle their intent,” Evans said.

“I think we have to do our due diligence so that we understand what elements of truth exist in any kind of protest, and make sure that we’re well prepared to defend what we do in the most positive way.”

© 2011 Postmedia News


7 Comments so far
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Posted by Stonepig

Sep 26 2011 – 9:58am.

“It’s been an interesting year, and yeah, it’s been challenging,” said Shawn Howard, a spokesman for TransCanada, the Calgary-based company building the pipeline.” And the stinking money that will kill so.much. must be pretty challenging to not get if the deal blows up. They are all probably buying up stock in pesticide companies for when the migrating birds no longer migrate in the tarsands area, and we are all left with an insect infestation of a Biblical nature. Hurray for the people of Canada with more people than US, protesting. We are so pathetic. We let a mere thousand do our protesting for us. Shameful. .

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Posted by PuffinThrush

Sep 26 2011 – 12:46pm.

Canadian Naomi Klein protested in front of the White House in Washington, D.C. along with a number of indigenous Canadians.

As Naomi Klein told it, she didn’t intend to get arrested, since she was concerned the United States might refuse to allow her to enter the country again, if she were arrested. But when Naomi Klein saw that the indigenous Canadans had no intention of moving when told to do so by the police, she decided to get arrested with them.

I wonder if there are any citizens of the United States who are risking arrest in Ottawa, Canada, today.

– –

See “Author Naomi Klein arrested in oil sands protest September 3, 2011”. .

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Posted by RV

Sep 26 2011 – 1:11pm.

Given the highly remote likelihood of such protests having any real impact on those who actually make the decisions and policies (hint: not “the people’s representatives”) Americans are conserving their energies for the forthcoming Second American Revolution.

Fat chance! Unfortunately, although any such “peasants revolt” like its precedants might possibly re-position a few of the current imperial powers somewhat, it’s equally unlikely to end imperial tyranny. .

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Posted by 4thefuture

Sep 26 2011 – 12:06pm.

Good for the Canadians to be protesting in mass numbers. If this tar sands stuff is as bad as it seems, shutting it down is the only way to go. If it were as good as the promoters say, then why aren’t they building a refinery in Canada? What kind of sense does it make to send it to Texas? The environment is a loser no matter what if it isn’t stopped. .

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Posted by Alcyon

Sep 26 2011 – 12:48pm.

This protest action is very significant. One can only hope that the public at large pays attention and the Canadian media cover the protest appropriately and not try to ignore it or misrepresent it, cleverly portraying the protesters as some kind of tree-hugging nuts.
>>”“This isn’t about condemning anybody that works in the tarsands or oilsands industry. This is about presenting choices,” said Greenpeace campaigner Mike Hudema. The Edmonton-based activist said he hopes people do not see the protest as an attack on Alberta, but as a bid for a “clean-energy economy.”<<

That is a real challenge – to get this point across. I can imagine a lot of people in Alberta (Canada's Texas) getting furious about this protest, as it not only impacts on their present livelihood, way of life and recent prosperity, it could even provoke strong feelings of entitlement and the urge to tell "outsiders" to just f*ck off.
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Posted by Lily_otv

Sep 26 2011 – 1:14pm.

Raw bitumen is thicker than molasses in January. Fuel from this type of production is extremely expensive and dirty. Fuel must be used to create the amount of pressure needed to pump raw bitumen. Fuel is consumed to refine the raw bitumen to oil. When the resulting oil is finally burned, it adds yet MORE carbon to the atmosphere. "bitumen extraction, its carbon footprint, tailings ponds and pipelines" degrade the planet. All this without even considering possible environmental damage caused by a leak or spill. Other reasons that Canadians are ticked off: – the Prime Minister is from Alberta with longstanding support for the Alberta oil industry. – the Prime Minister & his government cut financial incentives for the development and production of renewable fuel sources in order to support tarsands production. – the Prime Minister is afraid of the Green Party of Canada. Along with the support of media, the government dinosaurs and backward thinkers prevented participation by the Green Party in election debates. Thanks to the very hard work of Canadians who support Green Party Policies, there is now an MP from the Green Party. Elizabeth May, leader of the Green Party of Canada, former president of the Sierra Club, is now being heard in the Houses of Parliament in Ottawa. Elizabeth May knows more about tarsands, from her first-hand experience, than any other Member of Parliament. Look for her on Monday. .

Posted by Galenwainwright…

Sep 26 2011 – 2:10pm.

The arrests have already started.

Protestors are calmly, peacefully climbing over a Police erected barricade (which is blocking access to public property), and sitting quietly on the grass. While the cameras are on them, the Police are interviewing the protestors, then arresting them and leading them away.

But the Ottawa Police are quite well known for acts of shocking criminal brutality when the cameras are off or not present.

Look for this to get ugly.

Free speech is dead, dead, dead. In Canada, the US, and all over the world.
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Shell Must Clean up Its Act in Nigeria December 4, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Africa, Environment, Nigeria.
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Published on Friday, December 4, 2009 by The Guardian/UK

As Nigerian villagers take Shell to court over huge oil spills, it’s time for the group to take responsibility for polluting practices

by Chima Williams

A court in The Hague is considering whether Shell can be held liable for alleged pollution in Nigeria, and a ruling is expected on 30 December. This case could set a precedent for corporations based in Europe that exploit lax environmental regulations and violate the rights of communities in the developing world.In the village of Ikot Ada Udot, south-eastern Nigeria, a rusty complex of tubes pokes five feet out of the ground. A familiar sight to locals, it is known as the “Christmas tree”. But unlike its innocuous namesake, this “tree” is an abandoned oil wellhead owned by oil multinational Shell. According to environmentalists, the wellhead spewed toxic oil and gas into the land and fish ponds of local villagers for months in August 2006, and again in 2007. As of May 2008, the area around the Christmas tree was still heavily polluted and villagers remain destitute.

This is one of three oil spills in the case against Shell that will begin its first hearing at The Hague civil court this week. Four Nigerian villagers, in conjunction with Milieudefensie (Friends of the Earth Netherlands), are charging Royal Dutch Shell with causing massive oil spills that have resulted in loss of livelihoods. The case provides a snapshot of the environmental and social devastation caused by Shell in the Niger Delta.

The bigger, more disturbing picture is that oil spills have contaminated the once fertile Delta with approximately 1.5m tonnes of crude oil, equivalent to one Exxon Valdez disaster every year for the last 50 years. As Amnesty International pointed out in a report this July, Shell “has failed to respect the human rights of the people of the Niger Delta … through failure to prevent and mitigate pollution”.

The parent company, Royal Dutch Shell, denies responsibility for the pollution of its subsidiary, Shell Nigeria, and is challenging the jurisdiction of the Dutch court over its actions abroad. It also blames oil spills on sabotage to its equipment. It seems that if Shell had its way, no court would have jurisdiction over any violations of human rights and environmental law. In 2005, the federal high court of Nigeria declared Shell’s gas flaring to be a violation of human rights and ordered the company to stop the illegal practice. Shell has still not complied with this court order. With little or no legal remedy in Nigeria, villagers from the Niger Delta have decided to bring their case to The Hague to hold the company headquarters to account.

Should the case go forward, the court would hear about Shell’s systematic pollution across the region. In Goi, a massive oil spill from Shell’s Trans-Niger pipeline caught fire in 2005, incinerating farmland, property and polluting fisheries. It took 33 months before Shell cleaned up the mess. Chief Barizaa, an Ogoni elder, and one of the four plaintiffs in the case said: “I lost everything … the oil flowed into my fishponds and killed all my fish. The five canoes I had in the creeks were consumed by the inferno. I have nothing left to feed my family.”

Another oil spill flowed from a high-pressure pipeline in Oruma, Bayelsa state, in 2005, polluting the land and drinking water of several neighbouring communities. Shell waited 12 days before containing the spill, and four months later it began its clean-up operation by dumping the polluted soil into pits and setting them on fire, causing further damage to the environment.

The oil-rich Niger Delta is prized by multinational corporations; chief among them is Shell, which derives approximately 10% of its global profits from the region. The oil companies have made enormous profits and enriched a succession of Nigerian regimes, but pollution is driving local people into poverty. Until Shell takes responsibility for its impact on the environment and human rights, it can expect legal actions like this one to expose ugly truths about their polluting practices. Shell must bear the cost of its environmental devastation. The alternative is daily injustice on a massive scale.

© Guardian News and Media Limited 2009
Chima Williams is a lawyer by profession. He is an activist with Environmental Rights, Action/ Friends of the Earth in Nigeria. He advocates for changes in policy and environmental regulation in Nigeria and West Africa