Healthy Oceans. Healthy Communities.

New report highlights dangers associated with tar sands pipeline to British Columbia

November 29, 2011
Report warns that corrosive oil, dangerous pathway and treacherous seas make Northern Gateway project an unnecessary threat

VANCOUVER, B.C. – A new report released today shines a light on the dangers associated with transporting tar sands oil by Enbridge’s proposed Northern Gateway project, both along the pipeline pathway and on B.C.’s sensitive coast, which massive oil tankers would be navigating  for the first time. The report by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), the Pembina Institute and Living Oceans Society, has also been endorsed by nine British Columbia organizations,

“While the considerable environmental impacts of bitumen production are well documented, the increased risk and potential harm from transporting bitumen is less known,” said Nathan Lemphers, senior policy analyst, the Pembina Institute. “This report shows why the Northern Gateway pipeline is not worth the risk for the communities, rivers and Pacific coastline of British Columbia.”

The release of Pipeline and Tanker Trouble: The Impacts to British Columbia’s Communities, Rivers, and Pacific Coastline from Tar Sands Oil Transport comes as the battle over the controversial Northern Gateway pipeline project heats up in Canada and internationally. The report documents the risks that transporting tar sands oil poses to communities along the pipeline and tanker paths, to salmon-bearing rivers and to coastal ecosystems, including habitat of the Spirit Bear.

The proposed Northern Gateway pipeline would carry highly acidic and corrosive diluted bitumen from Alberta’s tar sands through nearly 1,200 kilometers (750 miles) of rugged and unstable landscapes to Kitimat on British Columbia’s northern coast. The pipeline would be serviced by over 220 supertankers each year sailing through B.C.’s North Coast waterways, which have been off-limits to the giant vessels due to concerns that an oil spill would ruin precious coastal natural resources.  

“There is fierce opposition in B.C. to allowing oil supertankers into our coastal waters and rightly so,” said Katie Terhune, Energy Campaign Manager, Living Oceans Society. “History has shown that oil tankers come with oil spills.  It is not a question of if, but when, a spill will happen.”

First Nations’ communities have made it clear that they will not allow the Northern Gateway project to proceed using their own laws to ban oil pipelines and tankers through British Columbia. The report also stresses their concerns while highlighting sensitive and beloved landscapes threatened by the pipeline and supertanker traffic.

“Our communities have taken a stand against the Northern Gateway pipeline because we would lose everything,” said Gerald Amos, member of the Haisla First Nation and Director of the Headwaters Initiative. “This pipeline is where we draw the line. Big oil pipelines and the accompanying oil super tankers mean that life as we know it will be over.”

“Pipeline and Tanker Trouble” also makes recommendations for provincial and federal policies associated with this project, asking for rejection of the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline and a ban on large oil tanker traffic off of British Columbia’s coast.

“In their growing desperation to get dirty bitumen to international markets, Alberta’s tar sands oil industry expects British Columbia to bear a very high cost,” said Natural Resources Defense Council International Program director, Susan Casey-Lefkowitz. “We have cleaner solutions that will not devastate British Columbia’s great angling rivers, the globally important Great Bear Rainforest and our climate.”

NRDC has recently added its voice to growing Northern Gateway opposition, with members and activists sending almost 100,000 letters in the last month to the B.C. government and Enbridge asking that the pipeline not be built.

(Fact sheet)


Contact Information

Josh Mogerman, NRDC, 312-651-7909

Julia Kilpatrick, Pembina Institute, 613-265-5579

Geoff Gilliard, Living Oceans Society, 604-999-6273


  • Katie Terhune