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Anti-pipeline campaign kicks off in answer to recent oil spills
“They mine tarsands a couple of miles from my front door,” said Roland Woodward, who lives in Anzac. And from where he stands and watches Highway 63, the traffic flow keeps increasing. “I live in the heart of tarsands.”
Woodward, who is a member of the Fort McMurray First Nation and serves as chair of the Keepers of the Athabasca, is adamant that tarsands development needs to slow down.
“I keep telling people I’m not against industry. I just want it to be more sustainable and more equitable,” he said.
The Keepers of the Athabasca have joined 16 other organizations in an advertising campaign to get people to think about pipeline and oilsands development.
Running in three Alberta newspapers and VUE weekly, the bold headline asks, “Are you feeling lucky?”
It goes on to say, “With over 320,000 km of oil and gas related pipelines in this province, how lucky do you feel? Premier Redford, we shouldn’t have to rely on luck. You must take action to protect our water and our families from oil spills, starting with an independent review of pipeline safety in Alberta.”
And if there’s any doubt that concern for pipelines, which are about to cross pristine forests and prime wildlife habitat, is overstated, Woodward only has to point to three oil spills that occurred in a four-week period.
“Those spills add credibility to what we are saying,” he said.
Among those spills is a pipeline operated by Enbridge Inc., the same company many First Nations in Alberta and British Columbia are battling on the proposed Northern Gateway Pipeline project, which will cross both provinces and through First Nations territory. On June 18, 1,400 barrels of oil escaped from Enbridge’s Athabasca pipeline about 70 km south of Bonnyville. On June 7, Plains Midstream Canada’s Rangeland pipeline spilled between 1,000 and 3,000 barrels of light sour crude oil into the Red Deer River via the Jackson Creek. Plains Midstream was responsible for the record setting crude oil spill in the Little Buffalo area last year. This news comes only weeks after a pipeline leak in northern Alberta. On May 19, Rainbow Lake pipeline, operated by Pace Oil & Gas, leaked approximately 5,000 barrels of oil into surrounding peat wetlands.
“They’re doing it at a fast pace. They want to double production in the next five years. You don’t know how many tarsands plants that means. How much air pollution, ground pollution, all the other social ills that come with it,” said Woodward. “My people are getting sick, getting cancer. This is starting to kill my people.”
The oil has been underground for thousands of years, why do they have to mine it in five years? he asks, adding oil companies have the technology to do it cleaner but choose not to.
“They’re saying the pipelines are safe and we’re saying no,” said Woodward. “Oilsands pipelines deteriorate faster than other pipelines because they can’t get all of the sand out of the tar so (the sand) acts as an abrasive on the inside.”
Woodward hopes that the anti-pipeline campaign will stir up dialogue and cause Albertans to question the way development is occurring.
“Right now Harper is saying we’re the hub of the economy, we’re what turns the economy in Canada,” said Woodward. “But at what cost?”
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