Animals spirit bear

Published on June 10th, 2013 | by Michael Ricciardi


B.C. Government Formally Rejects Proposed ‘Northern Gateway’ Tar Sands Pipeline

spirit bear

Kermode or  Spirit bear (Ursus americanus kermodel – photo credit: Jackmont; CC -BY – SA 3.0)

Citing significant safety concerns, the government of British Columbia, Canada, has announced its formal rejection of the proposed ‘Northern Gateway’ tar sands pipeline which would, if approved and built, bring 500,000 barrels of (diluted bitumen) oil straight through the pristine rainforest along the ‘Spirit Bear Coast’, en route to points east and south (mostly, China, and S. America).

Regular readers of planetsave may recall my 2011 post concerning this issue and the dwindling Spirit Bear* population that would be threatened. The coastal forest of the Great Bear Rainforest and its waterways are viewed by many as a wildlife paradise; the coastal forest is also home to sizable populations of wolves and cougars, the coastal waters are teeming with orcas and humpbacks, and its rivers and streams are home to world-class salmon runs. These runs have supported First Nations communities for thousands of years.

Over the past year or so, legitimate and growing concerns of potentially despoiling one of Canada’s greatest natural treasures as a result of even a single ‘dilbit’ spill led hundreds of thousands of citizens to call and/or petition British Columbia Premier Christy Clark to oppose the pipeline. A healthy 60% of B.C. voters oppose the pipeline scheme.

The Northern Gateway pipeline is an proposed ‘alternative’ transport scheme by oil giant Enbridge in the event that the US rejects the completion of the (north to south) Keystone XL pipeline through its central lands.

Quoting from the NRDC’s Danielle Droitsch’s blog post:

‘This announcement puts to rest the claim that tar sands development is inevitable.  But the B.C. government’s detailed submittal to federal government decision-makers was also noteworthy in recognizing there is growing evidence that diluted bitumen could pose additional risks to water and is more difficult to clean up.  The B.C. government decision has ramifications for the decision about the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.’

While this is viewed as good news for environmentalists and conservationists the world over, the battle is not won; the final decision lay in the hands of the Canadian federal government.

The Big Question & The Key Factors:

But this current victory raises an important question for citizens of the US: If Canadian citizens — which stand to gain economically from the exploitation of the tar sands — are willing to stand up and say ‘no’ to this pipeline and ‘yes’ to conservation and protection of its forests, waters and wildlife…then why should we (the US) take on such a tremendous risk?

rain forest along Olympic Peninsula

Temperate rain forests, such as this in Washington’s Olympic Peninsula, often grow right up to the shoreline. It is part of the Pacific temperate rain forest ecoregion of North America (which includes the Great Bear Rainforest) and is the largest temperate rain forest ecoregion on the planet as defined by the World Wildlife Fund {photo source}

Further, there is the added danger of increasing CO2 emissions that could drastically exacerbate global warming. And, as for so-called “energy security”…The US is already at peak oil/gas production (the highest in a decade) while per capita consumption of oil and gasoline are at a ten year low. The oil from this pipeline is hardly needed. That point may be mute anyway as most of the oil, once refined, will be exported (as jet fuel) to other nations.

As to the “ramifications” cited in the NRDC quote (above): even Goldman Sachs has reported on the added cost and negative consequences (“locked in” to dirty fuel for ten years) of the XL Keystone pipeline, and, most importantly, refutes the notion that rejecting Xl will guarantee the building of the Gateway pipeline. Indeed, GS asserts that rejecting  XL will totally dry up the market for tar sands oil, thus indicating that folks at Enbridge will likely have to cancel their development plans, as a consequence.

However, Goldman Sachs does not have a stake in the tar sands (that we know of) and may be vested in competing sources of oil. Further, there is sizable capital momentum for the XL pipeline, much of it from Canadian financial institutions backing the project. Canadian interests favoring the XL pipeline realize that to prevent soaring costs, and the inevitable litigation from piping through some 50 First Nations’ land, they must ship their ‘dilbit’ through the US. Currently, the US State Department continues to argue that the building of a pipeline is inevitable, so it might as well be through the US.

Some information in this post came via the NRDC website and originally posted on the NRDC Switchboard site. To read more important details on this story, visit this NRDC news blog: B.C. Government Rejects Tar Sands Pipeline – Raising Safety Questions

Top photo: Jackmont; CC -BY – SA 3.0


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About the Author

Michael Ricciardi is a well-published writer of science/nature/technology articles as well as essays, poetry and short fiction. Michael has interviewed dozen of scientists from many scientific fields, including Brain Greene, Paul Steinhardt, Arthur Shapiro, and Nobel Laureate Ilya Progogine (deceased). Michael was trained as a naturalist and taught ecology and natural science on Cape Cod, Mass. from 1986-1991. His first arts grant was for production of the environmental (video) documentary 'The Jones River - A Natural History', 1987-88 (Kingston, Mass.). Michael is an award winning, internationally screened video artist. Two of his more recent short videos; 'A Time of Water Bountiful' and 'My Name is HAM' (an "imagined memoir" about the first chimp in space), and several other short videos, can be viewed on his website ( He is also the author of the (Kindle) ebook: Artful Survival ~ Creative Options for Chaotic Times

  • OceanEscape

    The BC Premier has NOT formally rejected the Northern Gateway Project, she has simply stated that her five conditions have still not been met. Christy Clark is a very pro-industry Premier and if not for the overwhelming public opposition to bitumen export pipelines she would have already approved this one and will most certainly try to approve the Kinder Morgan upgrade to the Trans Mountain pipeline.

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