Diluted bitumen unsafe in any waters and should be banned


Bitumen, the product being extracted from the Northern Alberta and Saskatchewan Tar Sands operations, is similar to bunker crude. It also must be heated to be pumped. To make it flow in a pipeline a thinning agent is added.

The faulty logic of Trudeau’s Kinder Morgan Pipeline approval

by Merv Richie

For many years now the British Columbian population has endured news, commentaries and protests regarding the prospects of petroleum products being piped across the province and shipped by tankers from West Coast ports. Missing from the debate, including the recent decisions by the government of Justin Trudeau, is the various types of product and the present day dangers the coast faces now with all vessels.

The Nathan E. Stewart, which ran aground and sank at Bella Bella on October 13, 2016, highlights these dangers. Almost every vessel, from small fish boats to dry goods freighters has all their fuel uncontained. The MV Rena, which struck a reef and broke up spoiling the beaches of New Zealand five years ago, was a dry goods freighter. Everyday there are approximately 15 similar freighters moored in English Bay, each with an average of 3 million litres of Bunker Crude in their keel holds. Only 3/4 of an inch of steel separates the bunker fuel from the open ocean and our waterfront. A full 45 million litres or as much as the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska. All of this bunker crude and all fuel in almost all vessels waits to be spilled. The Nathan E. Stewart is our wake up call to demand fuel containment in all BC waters.

Most common of the refined petroleum products are diesel and gasoline. Besides the dozens of other products refined from crude oil the remaining sludge, a dirty sulphurous residue, is bunker crude. This is stored as ballast in the ‘keel hold’ at the bottom of all freighters. The consistency is such that it cannot be pumped without heating. When cold, it is like tar; in fact it is exactly the same substance we mix with gravel to pave our road surfaces. All freighters run on this filth after they leave populated harbours.

Bitumen, the product being extracted from the Northern Alberta and Saskatchewan Tar Sands operations, is similar to bunker crude. It also must be heated to be pumped. To make it flow in a pipeline a thinning agent is added. This is where the term Dil-Bit comes from; diluted bitumen. The thick bitumen is diluted with a product called ‘condensate’. Condensate is a very toxic and explosive gas. It is a by-product of wet natural gas wells. Commonly called ‘white gas’ it contains hydrogen sulfide, methanol, ethynol, cyclohexane, naphthene, benzene, toluene, xylenes and ethyl benzene. This product is being imported into Canada by ship and by rail from Kitimat to Alberta for the present pipeline system.

Therefore, we have a variety of substances to consider along with the manner in which these substances are transported. Each has their own hazards and management issues.

When the Lac Megantic disaster happened, the tragic explosion of a runaway train carrying oil, the product was not just oil. It was a mixture of oil and gas. Most adults understand one cannot light a litre of 10W30 engine oil. But if one was to add a bit of gasoline to the bottle we would essentially be creating a bomb. One wouldn’t want to stand too close when lighting it. That is exactly what was on the rails at Lac Megantic: bombs, crude oil mixed with gas.

What happened at Kalamazoo Michigan from the ‘Dil-Bit’ was a different result from the same mixture. When the Enbridge pipeline burst, a spray of pressurized ‘Dil-Bit’ hit the atmosphere. The local population suffered the effects of the toxicity. The suddenly aerosolized poisons of the condensate created neurotoxins.

Dil-Bit therefore is nothing short of an extremely explosive toxic nerve gas bomb.

Raw crude oil, without any added or present gases is difficult to transport by pipelines; for bitumen it is impossible. The added difficulty for Canadian bitumen is the corrosive sediment remaining after initial processing. The life of the pipelines is substantially reduced due to increased wear, much like sandpaper, the bitumen presents.

Transporting bitumen by rail car is not dangerous as long as it is not diluted or heated; shipped cold and raw. Bunker crude is shipped this way today. A derailment would see the product simply stay where it spilled even if a rail car broke open. A fully refined product, Dil-Bit or condensate would pollute flowing freely, vaporize or even ignite.

All these products are loaded onto vessels plying our waters completely un-contained. The rail cars or pipelines fill storage tanks next to the waters or are emptied directly into the vessel at port. This in itself presents a variety of potential for spillage. At Kitimat the condensate is reportedly spilled regularly. Tank farms are known to spring leaks including the one Kinder Morgan operates at Burrard Inlet, and spills occur while filling vessels. In fact most pleasure craft and fishing vessels are filled until the overflow spills out into the waters. All of these hazards and spillages could be resolved by a demand for containment by our governments.

In 1965 Ralph Nader wrote Unsafe at Any Speed. It was a critical examination of the Automobile Industry’s refusal to consider adding safety features such as seat belts. The industry, Nader detailed, sacrificed the lives of thousands by their combined refusal to address the very real and obvious hazards. A clear analogy is obvious here. The automobile industry complained loudly against regulation of their product, arguing the extra costs would bankrupt them or make their product unaffordable. Now safety is one of the auto industries greatest advertising features, adding airbags and protection devices wherever possible.

The petroleum and marine shipping industry could achieve the same result. Just as was required for the auto industry, regulations and changes will need to be enforced.

All vessels must be required to be retrofitted to have their fuel stored in removable containers. In the case of freighters, the rail cars presently delivering bunker crude could be redesigned to be detached from the rail bed, just as containers are today. These could then be lowered into refabricated holds on the vessel. A Panamax freighter would likely require 30 of these removable tank cars. Each could be connected to the fuel system by an electrically operated solenoid valve such that in the case of loss of power or impending disaster, the valves would secure the fuel. The very same fuel containment system must be made mandatory on all vessels. Sealed, removable fuel modules.

Just like a family going out for boating trip on a boat with a small outboard motor, the fuel is generally carried on board in a specially designed fuel tank. The hose is connected and with a couple squeezes on the fuel ball, the motor is ready to start.

Presently most vessels are unsafe in any waters. While there is justifiable outrage at Prime Minister Trudeau’s approval of the Kinder Morgan expansion plans, there is the opportunity to address the dangers present today.

If we demanded an immediate change to all fuel containment systems having bunker fuel and crude or bitumen transported cold and raw in detachable rail cars, sealed from the point of production to the destination, loaded in the same manner as ‘Sea Can’ containers are today, the dangers would be greatly reduced. An added benefit would be the reduced need for importing condensate to make toxic nerve gas and bombs. Dil-Bit needs to be completely banned. j

The Nathan E. Stewart was a wakeup call, as is the still-leaking Queen of the North; and the MV Bovec balancing on a reef off Prince Rupert in 2000 is similar to the MV Rena in New Zealand. British Columbia is just lucky to not have a disaster on its shores. And this is long before more tanker traffic arrives.

Resistance to Arctic drilling worth remembering

standing before an oil rig

From activists who scaled Shell’s rig in April or who stopped one of Shell’s ships this July, to the millions of people all over the world who signed petitions, paraded with polar bears, shared stories and helped organize for real environmental justice, this is YOUR victory.

I’m standing between Shell and the Arctic – join me

by Audrey Siegl

» Audrey Siegl, a Musqueam woman from BC, is a First Nations artist, activist, renowned public speaker and a drummer and singer. In the photo above, she stands in a Greenpeace rhib launched from the MY Esperanza holding her arm out in front her, defiantly signalling Shell’s subcontracted drilling rig, the Polar Pioneer, to stop.

Read moreResistance to Arctic drilling worth remembering

Let’s mark Canada’s 150th birthday by establishing a Department of Peace

Canadian Peace Initiative logo

There is currently no strategic focus for peace in government, and there has rarely been a greater urgency or a better window of opportunity to consider the creation of a Department of Peace in our country.

by Canadian Peace Initiative

Canada has a proud history of peacekeeping. Now, more than ever, we need Canada to take leadership and open the road to peace for the rest of the world.

The call is out to establish a Department of Peace on our 150th birthday. We have the opportunity to bring a beacon of light to the fragile state of our planet, racked by war, devastation and fear.

This is not a far-fetched idea, but something tangible that the Canadian Peace Initiative has worked on for years. Right now, a unique opportunity is open: You can directly ask Canada to increase its capabilities in peace leadership.

Read moreLet’s mark Canada’s 150th birthday by establishing a Department of Peace

Issues that demand connection and action

Thanks to donations from readers, DeSmog Canada was able to send photographer Garth Lenz to the Peace to capture the ongoing construction and the landscapes and lives that stand to be affected by Site C Dam.

Connecting the dots

by Bruce Mason

Corporate media may be denying or ignoring their existence, but the world is awash in unprecedented, existential crises: from Syria to Standing Rock, global climate tipping points, to so-called trade deals that enable greedy elites to prevent action, from international anti-nuclear arms initiatives, to the ugly, unwelcome return of the Cold War. The army of so-called mainstream media journalists, increasingly irrelevant and nearing extinction, are paid to prop up the multi-national corporate agendas. Instead of calling it mass media, the more accurate moniker is corporate media.

We turn your attention instead to independent social media; just type the headlines below into your search bar.

Read moreIssues that demand connection and action

Why we need a Natural Health Products Act!

Common Ground, along with many other organizations, businesses, and millions of natural health products customers across Canada, for decades have demanded that the government of the day leave our very safe natural products alone. They are not drugs and should be respected as such by giving then their own Natural Health Products Act.

Open letter to
Prime Minister, Right Honourable Justin Trudeau;
Minister of Health, Honourable Jane Philpott; and
Deputy Minister of Health, Simon Kennedy

I object to Health Canada’s (HC’s) proposals to classify Natural Health Products (NHPs) with prescription drugs! It is no secret in Ottawa that the pharmaceutical industry exerts massive influence on HC, and HC’s excuses for these proposals, based on safety and claims, are invalid. I urge you to use my tax dollars to support the creation of a new Natural Health Products Act (NHPA) to protect my access and freedom of choice.

In over 60 years in Canada, involving far in excess of 100,000 NHPs, taken by millions of Canadians daily, totalling billions to trillions of doses, the death total is zero (0). This makes NHPs safer than food or water and means that HC legally has no jurisdiction over NHPs since the Food and Drugs Act only grants HC powers over substances that pose a demonstrable risk, not made-up, theoretical risks with no actual occurrences like HC poses for NHPs.

Conversely, according to a report by past MP, Terence Young, as many as 20,000 Canadians die each year from pharmaceuticals, hence, over a million deaths in the same 60-year time period. And HC is proposing to regulate them together based on safety? This is absurd.

Not surprisingly, HC’s proposals come now with the Liberal government signalling they will sign the misleadingly named “free-trade deals” with Europe and Asia, i.e. CETA and TPP, which contain allowances for expansion of pharmaceutical patents and massive losses of Canadian sovereignty in all areas of our lives. See www.canadianbankreformers.ca for an important update and call to action on CETA. Huge pharmaceutical companies such as Bayer hold hundreds of use-patents on NHPs. (Eg: www.google.com/patents/US20140271923) Such patents use the most advanced research and put to rest claims by media and medicine that there is no evidence for NHPs. Big Pharma is running out of drugs, and coming for them. Consider this patent, which outlines a tablet delivery system for several hundred NHPs: http://www.google.ca/patents/US8883205

To create a single marketplace, regulations between Trade Agreement member nations must be “harmonized,” and restrictions on NHPs are being attempted in countries around the globe. This is occurring under the auspices of the International Coalition of Medicines Regulatory Authority, (ICMRA), and until recently, Health Canada was both chairing and acting as the secretariat for this group. As its regulatory model, ICMRA is using the EU where pharmaceutical companies control all aspects of healthcare.

This is HC’s third attempt to group NHPs with prescription drugs. The first came in 1997 after they were directed to partner with the pharmaceutical industry, and HC immediately came out with the Establishment Licensing Act. Canadians protested vehemently and the Act was stopped. The Standing Committee on Health performed extensive investigations, and in its final report specifically ruled out regulating NHPs as DRUGS. Parliament came out with 53 Recommendations; #1 was to amend the Food and Drugs Act to provide NHPs with a category distinct from either Foods or Drugs.

Yet HC subverted things and placed NHPS as DRUGS anyways. This was a set-up. They tried again to apply prescription drug regulations to NHPs in 2008 with Bill C51. Again, Canadians revolted and again the Bill did not proceed. So now, HC has united the departments for NHPs and OTC pharmaceuticals. As Drugs, NHPs are forced to make approved claims. HC is now using claims they approved as justification for tighter controls.

If these proposals are allowed to go forward, mass suffering will be inflicted on untold numbers of Canadians who rely on NHPs for their health, as their NHPS incrementally disappear.

The time has come for a Natural Health Products Act to protect Canadians’ access and well being, and the groundwork has already been laid. The Committees have investigated. Parliament has already decided what should happen. The department and regulatory system already exists in the Natural Health Products Directorate, and the framework for the new Act has already been written in The Charter of Health Freedom.

As a citizen of Canada, help me protect and make decisions about my own wellbeing that are rightfully mine, and push for a new NHP Act. Preserve my birthright to look after my own health.

Thank you,

Brief to House of Commons Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security

Submitted by Barrie Zwicker

» 2013 Canada Day terrorist plot was a “police-manufactured crime.” – Madam Justice Catherine Bruce of the BC Supreme Court

If ever two dots needed connecting, it’s Bill C-51 and the historic judgment of the BC Supreme Court in the case of the so-called “Canada Day Terror Plot” in 2013 in Victoria.

On July 29, 2016, Madam Justice Catherine Bruce, in a 344-page ruling, struck down the terrorism convictions of John Nuttall and Amanda Korody, impoverished recovering heroin addicts with mental health challenges. She called the so-called “terrorist plot” a “police-manufactured crime.”

The Mounties devoted more than 200 officers and spent millions to aid and abet the crime. A Globe and Mail editorial on August 4, 2016, observed, “The accused pair could not have managed a bomb attack on the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia without the RCMP’s step-by-step guidance.” Some counter-terrorism.

Read moreBrief to House of Commons Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security

A journey into the heart of darkness that is Site C Dam

by Bruce Mason

» It’s absolutely essential to understand as much as you can about Christy Clark’s increasingly controversial Site C Dam. We’re all on the hook for nine billion, at the very least, but most likely for much more. $9,000,000,000+ for the most expensive, unnecessary and destructive project in BC’s history. Our children and grandchildren will also bear the costs down the line of this greedy elite theft from our public commons.

Read moreA journey into the heart of darkness that is Site C Dam

Toad People World Premiere

image toad people

Presented by
the Wilderness Committee

» Wednesday, November 30, 6:30-9PM
At SFU Woodward’s, 149 W. Hastings St., Vancouver
Tickets $10 – order at toadpeople.brownpapertickets.com

What does it take to save a species? A film about hope, community and the struggle to save species at risk in BC. We are thrilled to announce the world premiere of our hotly anticipated documentary film Toad People. We hope you will save the date in your calendars and join us there.

Toad People is an inspiring documentary about communities across BC fighting to protect species at risk, such as the western toad and barn owl. This film isn’t just about people standing up for toads. People living in BC know we have remarkable wildlife no other province boasts: killer whales, grizzly bears, barn owls and badgers.

Many people don’t realize that BC has no standalone endangered species legislation. With the provincial election around the corner, now is the time to change that.

After Vancouver, we’re hitting the road to screen Toad People in interior BC, Vancouver Island and northern BC.


The predator we need to control is us!

photo of David Suzuki

by David Suzuki

• Humans are the world’s top predator. The way we fulfil this role is often mired in controversy, from factory farming to trophy hunting to predator control. The latter is the process governments use to kill carnivores like wolves, coyotes and cougars to stop them from hunting threatened species like caribou – even though human activity is the root cause of caribous’ decline.

Predation is an important natural function. But as the human population has grown, we’ve taken over management of ecosystems once based on mutually beneficial relationships that maintained natural balances. How are we – a “super predator” as the Raincoast Conservation Foundation dubs us – aligning with or verging from natural predation processes that shaped the world?

Read moreThe predator we need to control is us!

Public consultation is a real chance to repeal unpopular legislation

photo of David Christopher

by David Christopher

It’s here. Almost a year into their mandate, the Liberal government has finally launched its long awaited public consultation on Bill C-51, and a broad range of privacy and national security issues.

Speaking at the launch, Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale and Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould said they had already identified a limited number of areas of Bill C-51 they wanted changed and that they wanted to get Canadians’ views on how to deal with the rest of the unpopular legislation.

Bill C-51, readers may recall, is the highly controversial spying bill forced through Parliament by the previous Conservative federal government. Notably, the legislation turns the Canadian Security and Intelligence Service (CSIS) into what the Globe and Mail has called a “secret police force,” with little independent oversight or accountability.

Read morePublic consultation is a real chance to repeal unpopular legislation