Letter to Jim Watson, re: Tar Free 613

Letter to Jim Watson, re: Tar Free 613
Posted on September 13, 2013 | Nihal Khader | Written on September 12, 2013
Letter type:

Dear Jim Watson,

TransCanada has announced plans to convert a gas pipeline to carry up to 1.1 million barrels a day (130 million litres) of Albertan tar sands oil that would pass through the south end of Ottawa and the Rideau River. As a resident of Ottawa, I am writing to express my concerns with respect to the serious environmental risks and impacts this proposed pipeline would have in the Ottawa Region.

This 4,400 km pipeline, dubbed Energy East, would carry tar sands bitumen from the Alberta tar sands to the East Coast of Canada. Energy East would put our water, food, and environment in danger from dirty and toxic oil spills and catastrophic climate change. Thousands of Canadians along the 4,400 km pipeline route will assume all of the pipeline risk while big oil companies take all the profit, including us as residents of Ottawa. An oil spill has the potential to displace hundreds of thousands in the Ottawa region from their homes.

This pipeline would threaten the sensitive ecosystem of the Rideau River, which flows into the Ottawa River, with a major oil spill. It could also devastate many of the rich farmlands and other ecosystems that surround the city. It has potential to jeopardize food and water sources for nearly 1 million people living in the Ottawa region. An oil spill could have devastating effects for the rich farmlands surrounding Ottawa, which supply the region with fresh fruits, vegetables, and meats.

The Energy East Pipeline is all risk and no benefit for the city of Ottawa and the world at large. We all have a stake and responsibility in protecting the environment and keeping the Ottawa region tar sands free. As the elected official of my Ottawa ward, I ask that you consider these points, and speak out against the proposed pipeline, on behalf of the concerned citizens of Ottawa.

For more information on the proposed Energy East pipeline, I encourage you to visit the Tar Sands Free 613 website at tarfree613.ca. Tar Sands Free 613 is campaign of concerned groups and individuals dedicated to protecting the Ottawa area from the devastating impacts of the proposed Energy East pipeline.

I encourage you to also work with your colleagues and counterparts in other levels of government to express my concerns and do what is possible to oppose this project. I would appreciate hearing back from you on this matter.


Nihal Khader,
Ecology Ottawa

Letter Response

Thank you for your correspondence regarding the TransCanada pipeline proposal.

The safety of our residents is always the prime concern for me and my colleagues. However, the City of Ottawa and our City Council does not have direct responsibility to make a decision regarding a pipeline going across or under our City lands. The approval process for the pipeline is multi-faceted and will take some time to unfold as TransCanada applies for certificates and approvals from the National Energy Board.

The National Energy Board falls under the mandate of the Federal Minister of Natural Resources, the Honourable Joe Oliver.

I suggest that you contact Minister Oliver to inform him of your concerns. He can be reached at:

The Honourable Joe Oliver, P.C., M.P.
Minister of Natural Resources
Natural Resources Canada
580 Booth Street 21st Floor, Room C7-1
Ottawa ON K1A 0E4
Minister.Ministre@NRCan-RNCan.gc.ca or joe.oliver@parl.gc.ca

The National Energy Board can be contacted at:

National Energy Board
444 Seventh Avenue SW
Calgary, Alberta T2P 0X8

You may also wish to contact local Members of Parliament.

I can assure you that the City of Ottawa will continue to monitor the discussion of this issue at all levels in this matter. Any change or expansion of the current pipeline operations should not weaken safety standards and protection of the safety of our residents and the natural environment of our City. I appreciate that you have taken the time to contact me with your opinion.


Jim Watson, Mayor
City of Ottawa

About The Author


Bill Toms

I saw a story on TV about the Enbridge pipeline spill in the US(Was it Michigan?). They suggested that a diluted bitumen spill into a river is harder to clean up because the crude oil separates quite readily from the diluent and settles to the bottom. The oil then has to be dredged from the river bottom which is more expensive than skimming from the river surface. Is this true?

Where is this idea coming from that transportation of oil by pipeline is not safe?

Within North America, there are about 200,000 miles of pipelines that transport crude oil and other petroleum liquids from where they are produced to markets where they are consumed. These pipelines have been a vital part of the continent’s energy infrastructure for many decades (oil production began in the 19th century). Pipelines, in fact, have long been demonstrated to be the safest, most reliable, economical and environmentally favourable way to transport crude oil and refined oil products throughout the continent.

The integrity of pipeline construction and operation has been a major focus of attention by regulatory bodies and the petroleum industry for decades. Standards such as the “International Organization for Standardization (ISO) 15649: 2001 Petroleum and Natural Gas Industries Piping” is an international standard that specifies the requirements for design and construction of piping for the petroleum industry, and the American Petroleum Institute and Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers have sponsored supporting industry initiatives in this area.

Data on oil spill trends are kept rigorously in Canada and the United States. The annual number of pipeline spills has decreased by 500% over the last 30 years, according to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) data. The amount of oil spilled is less than 3 million gallons per year, compared to the 130 billion gallons per year of oil that is consumed. In other words, the oil spilled is 0.002 % of the oil consumed. To be sure, that is not zero, but it is a remarkably low amount.

In Canada, the record of oil pipeline safety is even better than it is in the United States. The Transportation Safety Board reports on pipeline spills are available on-line. For the most recent year available (2012), the Board reported 154 "incidents" involving oil pipelines in Canada. Ninety-six per cent of those incidents were cases in which less than one cubic metre of oil was released. In only two incidents was there a release of more than 26 cubic metres of oil. When one considers that in Canada we have 19,000 kilometres of active oil pipelines transporting 1.2 billion barrels of oil annually, that is a quite remarkable demonstration that pipelines are far and away the safest way to transport oil.

It is a highly questionable public relations exercise to get people with no knowledge of pipeline engineering or economics worried about an application to build a new pipeline. The National Energy Board is an independent, expert, quasi-judicial body established by the federal government in the early 1950's with the mandate to examine all the issues and to make a judgment as to whether a certificate should be issued and , if so, with which conditions. Politicizing the issue adds heat but no light.