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Safety concerns raised over dangerous new oils moving through Canada

July 8, 2013

VANCOUVER—Environmental groups are calling on the federal government to enquire into the safety of moving unconventional oils in the aftermath of the tragic tanker train derailment that destroyed a large portion of the Quebec town of Lac-Mégantic on July 6. Every day, vast quantities of new kinds of oil products are moving across Canada and it is completely unclear that systems built for conventional oil products are adequate to deal with these new products.

“The ferocity of the explosion and fire in Lac-Mégantic made me wonder what was being carried in the tankers,” said Karen Wristen, Executive Director of Living Oceans. “From what I can glean so far, it appears that it was a lighter, more volatile kind of oil than conventional crude, similar to the product that is used to dilute tarsands bitumen before it goes in the pipeline.”

Some 300,000 barrels of oil products move through Metro Vancouver on Kinder Morgan’s TransMountain Pipeline daily. In the past, most of this oil was conventional product that has been moved around North America for over a century. Today, more of the oil being moved is diluted tarsands bitumen and shale oils, which may pose different risks, whether transported by rail or pipeline.

“There is a deeper question here that really isn't just about how often trains derail vs. pipelines fail. It's about the consequences of the accident when it does occur,” said Wristen. “Kinder Morgan wants to more than double its throughput and storage capacity in Burnaby, in the middle of a residential neighbourhood.”

“As we move away from conventional crude we are facing even greater risk to people and the environment,” said Ben West of Forest Ethics Advocacy. “Pipeline leaks are making the news on a regular basis now—it was just fortunate that, when Kinder Morgan’s pipeline was ruptured by an excavator in 2007, the oil in the line that day was a heavy oil that is less liable to explode. If it had been one of these light oils, or a bitumen blend containing condensate, the result might have been very different.”

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Contact Information

Karen Wristen
Executive Director
Living Oceans Society
Mobile: 604-778-5634

Ben West
Tar Sands Campaign Director
Forest Ethics Advocacy
Mobile: 604-710-5340

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