For Marine Life, New Threats from a Fast-Tracked Canadian Pipeline
A new Canadian government-backed pipeline that will triple the amount of thick Alberta tar sands oil flowing to a British Columbia port poses significant risks for a threatened population of killer whales and other coastal marine life.
BY JIM ROBBINS • AUGUST 2, 2018
Nearly everyone involved in the controversy over Canada’s troubled Trans Mountain Pipeline was surprised when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced in May that his government would take over the construction from a private company to ensure that additional tar sands crude oil can move from northern Alberta to a port in British Columbia.
The 715-mile Trans Mountain pipeline expansion would add a parallel pipeline to an existing one, increasing the route’s capacity from 300,000 to 890,000 barrels per day and helping producers sell crude and refined oil to Asian markets. Trudeau’s action means that a pipeline many thought might never be built is now on a fast track to completion by 2020. Construction is scheduled to begin this month.
The expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline poses a range of environmental impacts and risks — from the possibility of leaks as the new line crosses hundreds of streams, rivers, and lakes across the breadth of the British Columbia wilderness, to the fact that it will allow Alberta’s massive tar sands reserves to be further exploited and contribute large amounts of CO2 to the atmosphere. But the most immediate and serious impacts may be to the marine environment along the coast of British Columbia, where the pipeline would terminate at the Westridge Marine Terminal at Burnaby near Vancouver.
The pipeline is expected to lead to a sharp increase in oil tanker traffic in the Salish Sea — a network of inland ocean waterways shared by British Columbia and Washington State — from four tankers a month to 34, along with associated construction and other ship traffic. Marine biologists are especially concerned about the impact of increased ship noise on a highly endangered population of 75 killer whales, known as the “southern residents,” shared by the two countries.
To read the complete story on 360 Yale, click this link: Canadian Pipeline Could Threaten a Highly Endangered Species