About 25 demonstrators joined a candlelight vigil to protest the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline expansion on Nov. 21 in Friday Harbor, as part of an international protest.
If the Canadian government votes for the expansion by Dec. 19, ships carrying crude oil along the San Juan Islands would increase, as well as the possibility of oil spills.
Not just any oil spills, said Michael Riordan, board member of the Friends of the San Juans, but ones with a heavy, sinkable oil that is almost impossible to clean up.
“If there is an oil spill, it will most likely go to the bottom of the ocean, and will probably be there for decades,” said Riordan at the rally. “That’s the greatest danger I worry about.”
The Friends of the San Juans coordinated the public candlelight vigil. About 48 candlelight vigils were held across Canada on the same day, according to 350.org. Thousands protested against the expansion in Vancouver, the weekend before.
“This is our Standing Rock,” said Stephanie Buffum, executive director the Friends of the San Juans, who compared this protest to the one against the U.S. government’s expansion of the Dakota Access Pipeline over Native American land.
“If this expansion is passed, it will be bigger than the Keystone XL pipeline,” said Lovel Pratt, Friends of the San Juans consultant.
Buffman said the Kinder Morgan pipeline fails to gain as much attention as other pipeline expansions because the oil is passing through U.S. oceans, not land, and in only a small portion of the northwest, not across several states. It’s also the Canadian government’s decision, not America’s. That doesn’t mean Americans can’t be heard, said Buffman.
“This is a social contract with where we live,” said Buffman. “These are shared waters.”
The Friends of the San Juans urge people to contact Canadian representatives and Washington senators to protest the pipeline.
Riordan explained that the crude found in Alberta is more tar-like than liquid, and must be diluted to flow through the pipeline to Vancouver. When it hits the water, this oil separates into its original form; parts float on the water, like traditional crude oil spills, but others sink to the bottom.
In a 2014 Senate hearing, a U.S. Coast Guard veteran said there is technology to recover surface oil spills, but not for ones with these sinkable tar sands oil.
Oil tankers, carrying the tar sands oil, leave the Kinder Morgan pipeline in Vancouver and pass the San Juan Islands on their way to Californian or Asian refineries.
Research from the Friends of the San Juans found that there would be a 31 percent increase in vessel traffic in the Salish Sea if all 20 currently proposed projects from the U.S. and Canada were passed, including the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion.
The Friends of the San Juans’ research found that 91 percent of these new commercial ships in the Salish Sea are leaving or entering Canada. The more ships, the greater risk for wrecks and fuel leakage, whether they are carrying crude oil, or even food.
“All the possibility for oil spills is coming from Canada, and we just happen to be adjacent and bearing all the risk,” said Buffman.
The Friends of the San Juans will hold a series on how the presidential election results will affect local issues, including the results of the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion decision.
The series will be from 10:30 a.m. to noon on Dec. 12 at the Friends of the San Juans office on Mullis Street. On Dec. 14, it will be from 12:30 to 2 p.m. at 569 Main St. on Orcas and 4 to 5 p.m. at Shaw Community Center. It will also be from 10:30 a.m. to noon on Dec. 15 at the Lopez library.
For questions about the organization, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or 378-2319. Below is contact information for Canadian representatives.
- Prime Minister Justin Trudeau: email@example.com; Hill 613-995-0253; Constituency 514-277-6020
- Minister of Natural Resources Jim Carr: Jim.Carr@parl.gc.ca; Hill 613-992-9475; Constituency 204-983-1355
- Minister of the Environment and Climate Change Catherine McKenna: Catherine.McKenna@parl.gc.ca; Hill 613-996-5322; Constituency 613-946-8682