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Creating Energy Justice

Published October 23, 2013

by hdrdla

This past Saturday, an oil-bearring train derailed and crashed in Gainford, Alberta, a village near near Edmonton; luckily no one was hurt. The event took me back to July when another oil-bearring train derailment in Lac Megantic killed 47 people and the town was left a mess, and is still continuing to recover. Canada has had several derailment spills in 2013 that are largely ignored. This most recent crash came on the same day of the Line 9 rally in Toronto. The rally opposed Enbridge's plan to reverse the flow-direction of the existing Line 9 pipeline, which would require using an additive to the oil that makes the pipes more likely to burst and spill. Line 9 passes through some of the most densely populated neighbourhoods in Ontario, , 99 cities and towns and 18 Aboriginal communities also alongside the pipe. 

Rail transport of oil has rapidly expanded in recent years due to the claim of lacking pipeline infrastructure. Rail transport is extremely dangerous in that it is a direct cause of human death in addition to the devastating affects left on the environment by spilling. Some might say that the derailing is one more reason to go forward with the pipeline. That being said, we should not forget the history of pipeline spills, in their frequency, enormous magnitude and most importantly the action (or inaction) following these spills.  The continuing development of oil infrastructure, and the amount of spillage incurring has continued to displace people from their homes while failing to adequately consult community stakeholders and destroy lands and waters required for basic human needs. The environmental destruction caused has harmed people, wildlife and the environment beyond repair. The spills occurring from these pipelines often take an unreasonable amount of time just to cap the spill and even longer for site remediation and clean up. Often this cleanup results in "recovered" areas are made to look like a healthy environment, when in reality they are planted with species that can thrive in oil ridden environments and when you physically dig just below the surface, oil would leach right out of the ground. Seemingly nothing positive can come out of this discussion, and more can be said about the environmental effects of extraction, processing and use of oil. 

Today the Canadian government's main economic objective is to expand the oil industry. The largest inhibiter of growth of the oil industry is lack of infrastructure to transport. It makes no sense to me that oil companies are making billions of dollars a year while we, the people living practically on top of the pipelines,  are suffering the consequences of their mistakes and paying a premium while we watch our oil sold to other countries. These accidents have not slowed and will continue to occur. The Line 9 rally speakers exposed the the public that Enbridge's own data showing that Line 9 would burst after a short time in operation,  and further, that none of the Aboriginal communities had been consulted on the line built next to their homes.

I encourage people to educate themselves on the decisions that are being made in their communities so they can have a voice in the outcome. The pipeline is running just south of York University's Keele campus. At the rally, community voices were heard louder than ever and hearings from the National Energy Board and Enbridge were postponed indefinitely. Be a voice in your community because you are a stakeholder! Without people speaking out, decisions will be made with no consultation and the consequences will be paid by the public. Making change is never convenient but well worth it when it means saving lives and biodiversity. We have seen change in Ontario, when we capped sulphur dioxide emissions to stop acid rain and we became leaders by closing and phasing out our coal-fired power plants.

 Ontario could be at the turning point of its energy supply. Ontario's Nuclear facilities are reaching their age of closure, Premier Kathleen Wynne has just rejected the new build of the Darlington power plant, coal-fired power plants are closing and renewable technologies are expanding. Ontario has the chance to make a shift into clean and renewable energy. Just last week the World Health Organization reported that air pollution is the main cause for cancer. Know what is happening in Ontario and help make decisions that benefit communities. 

You can read more about what happened at the rally this past Saturday here.

Posted in: Blogs | Sustainable Energy