First of all, let's look at the natural seepage statistics, with some of the places or concepts Roland Seguin has cited [Nature leaks more than pipelines, Aug. 2 Letters, Langley Advance].
Increased offshore drilling has not been proven to decrease seepage, and could actually increase seepage.
A common practice in oil production is the injection of fluids or gas created during production, back into reservoirs in order to maintain pressure to force more oil and gas out. This practice can contribute to natural seepage.
For example, one of the stated impacts of the recently proposed Venoco Ellwood Full Field Development Project is increased natural oil and gas seepage as a result of waste water reinjection into formations that contribute to natural seepage.
Accidents due to oil production can also increase seepage.
Which brings me to the Gulf of Mexico, as cited by Mr. Seguin. Natural seepage has been estimated at half a million to as high as 12 million barrels a year. That's about 1,500 to 3,800 barrels a day - roughly a fifth of the 12,000 and 19,000 barrels per day released by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
The magnitude of the spill is not so crucial as its concentration. Were it diffused like the natural seeps over the entire Gulf, there is a natural mechanism for coping with oil.
The natural seeps are spread over a huge area, and because they've been going on for thousands of years, there is a well developed bacterial community that eats those things. You might say that the whole Gulf of Mexico has been inoculated_ but that's for natural occurrences, not mass produced man-made ones.
In cases of natural bitumen, many natural processes are already built in, or they are undrinkable and unusable.
In cases of man-made spills, it's not the simply stated case that he makes, that if it comes from the ground, it must be natural and okay. If that were true, we'd still be using lead in paint.
We are unnaturally pulling it out of areas, making concentrated forms of it, and transporting it across areas that do not have vast areas of natural seepage. B.C.'s mountains and coastline don't have natural inoculations built in.
Trains, trucks, and chemicals fall under highway and transportation acts, and various dangerous goods regulations that have to be strictly adhered to. When a truck or train derails, it is immediately known, confined, and dealt with, and not found by accident by plane by another company with no one else knowing about it, as per a northern Alberta leak, or left to leak for 17 hours as per Kalamazoo, Michigan.
As a former truck driver, I've transported Super B's of fuel to gas stations without an accident, and regardless of what company I worked for, I was personally responsible for the load I was carrying and subject to the fines if regulations weren't followed to the letter. Even having the wrong placards on your truck or train car will get you, the operator, the fine - a huge financial hit.
But an oil company? Even a $3 million fine is like a $10 parking ticket to a middle-class person.
Given the recent increases in land, mud, and rock slides, along with flooding, it complicates things drastically. And, then there's the delicate matter of faultlines.
Trains or trucks can stop long before they reach any road or set of tracks covered with rocks or compromised. Pipelines are always running, and the auto-shut-off obviously doesn't always work. Nor does it pick up smaller leaks.
One has to wonder what an independent study of the soil quality under Walnut Grove would show for a pipeline that's now well past the ages of some of Wisconsin's pipes. Granted, it's a different company, but still important, given that's the location of the soon-to-be twinned pipe to Burnaby.
Is it fair to compare Kinder Morgan to Enbridge?
Perhaps. They certainly are trying to sneak in under the media radar. In an April 2012 report, The Facts About Kinder Morgan, Sightline's Eric de Place found "numerous incidents involving KM's 43,000 miles of oil and gas pipelines in North America have resulted in "deaths, felonies, and environmental disasters," including the 2007 incident in Burnaby in which 1,500 barrels of oil spewed onto homes and flowed down streets into Burrard Inlet after an excavator struck a poorly-mapped KM pipeline."
Their record isn't as spotless as one would like, even without the highly localized Burnaby incident.
But getting back to Enbridge, there's no amount of money that can cover what we could lose in terms of valuable agricultural land, fisheries, or water quality for irrigation or urban use.
We can't eat or drink oil, but there are products that will replace everything that oil creates, without affecting the food supply.
In that, 'eco-radicals' or the like are promoting self-sustainability in a selfless way that doesn't mortgage our children's future with promises of corporations that have repeatedly been using us and our environment as test subjects. Otherwise, safety standards for workers would still be the same as they were fifty years ago, and products that were in use in that same time frame that are now 'controlled from illegal dumping' and 'use for public products' would also still be around . . . such as 'lead in gasoline, paint, or used as cheap metal for toys.'
Given that profit clearly trumps everything else, especially when the public safety record for private corporations seems to be the moral equivalent of a repeat offender, the current Federal government's omnibus bill is designed to enhance their ability to repeat it again and again, with little oversight.
Jeff Munroe, Walnut Grove
@ Copyright 2013