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For Immediate Release, May 31, 2013

Contact:  Noah Greenwald, (503) 484-7495

British Columbia Rejects Tar Sands Pipeline Citing Same Risks Keystone XL Holds for U.S.:
Spills and Lack of Clean-up Plans

PORTLAND, Ore.— While the U.S. government considers the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, the British Columbia government today rejected a separate tar sands oil pipeline because there was no clean-up plan in the event of spill. According to a sharply worded letter sent by the province to a review panel, Enbridge — the company that wants to build the Northern Gateway pipeline — could not provide specifics on what it would do if the pipeline spilled. Enbridge was responsible for a 2010 spill that dumped more than 1 million gallons of oil in the Kalamazoo River in Michigan that has yet to be cleaned up.

“The British Columbia government has this exactly right — spills from tar sands pipelines are a disaster with no solution,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director with the Center for Biological Diversity. “For the exact same reasons British Columbia is saying no to the Northern Gateway, the Obama administration should say no to Keystone XL.”

The Northern Gateway is often cited as a justification for building the 1,700-mile, Canada-to-Texas Keystone XL pipeline under the false premise that the oil will get exported regardless of what the United States does. 

British Columbia’s letter notes that the Northern Gateway “is not a typical pipeline,” in part because of the propensity of tar sands oil — also known as bitumen — to sink, with the letter noting that “the behavior in water of the material to be transported is incompletely understood.” Based on this lack of understanding, the letter concludes “the impact of spills into pristine river environments would be profound.” The government recommends that the pipeline “not be granted a certificate on the basis of a promise to do more study and planning once the certificate is granted.”

Like the Northern Gateway, Keystone XL will cross many water bodies. The U.S. State Department has estimated that Keystone XL could spill up to 100 times during the course of its lifetime.

“Keystone XL will cross some of America’s great rivers, including the Yellowstone, Platte and Niobrara,” said Greenwald. “TransCanada has no better plan for cleaning up a spill in any of these rivers than Enbridge does in British Columbia. Simply put, Keystone isn’t worth the catastrophic risk it poses to rivers, wildlife and our climate.”

British Columbia will present its arguments to a review panel hearing on the Northern Gateway beginning June 17. A final report on the project is due to the Canadian government by the end of the year.

“Today’s action by British Columbia shows that the world can say no to dirty tar-sands oil, which is a disaster for our climate, land and water,” said Greenwald.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 500,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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