The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Kristen Monsell, (510) 844-7137,

Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion Project in Canada Threatens Critically Endangered Southern Resident Killer Whales

Pipeline Company Has Long History of Spills, Accidents in United States

OTTAWA, Ontario

The Center for Biological Diversity today urged the Canadian government to reject Kinder Morgan's proposal to build a 613-mile pipeline so it can transport dirty Alberta tar sands oil to the United States and China. The pipeline would run from Edmonton, Alberta to Burnaby, British Columbia, where the oil would be loaded onto tankers and shipped through critical habitat for endangered Southern Resident killer whales, a species with fewer than 85 individual animals left.

Kinder Morgan has had at least 184 leaks and other pipeline incidents caused by corrosion, ruptures, equipment failure and other problems in the United States since 2006, federal data show. These incidents resulted in $75 million in property damage and more than 27,300 barrels of hazardous materials spilled.

"This company's disturbing history highlights the toxic threat of its pipeline expansion project," said Center attorney Kristen Monsell. "If this project's permitted, the pollution, noise and increased risk of dangerous oil spills would threaten the survival of some of the most amazing animals on Earth. Canada must reject this environmentally destructive project."

Southern Resident killer whales live primarily in waters off Washington and British Columbia and are protected as an endangered species in both the United States and Canada. Despite these protections the species hasn't recovered and is expected to decline to only 75 individuals within a generation. Existing human activities in and near coastal waters threaten these animals by reducing salmon numbers (their primary food), generating toxic pollution and increasing ocean noise, which disrupts the orcas' ability to communicate and locate prey.

The project would nearly triple the capacity of the existing Trans Mountain pipeline to 890,000 barrels per day and would increase the amount of tanker traffic in the Salish Sea -- a core foraging area for these endangered orcas -- seven-fold, from around 60 tankers per year to more than 400.

Experts have said that an oil spill from the project could collapse salmon stocks and lead to the extinction of Southern Resident killer whales, similar to what is happening to a pod of killer whales near Prince William Sound due to lingering effects of the Exxon Valdez disaster. That pod now consists of only seven animals and is expected to die off soon.

"Southern Resident killer whales are already teetering on the brink of extinction -- the last thing they need is hundreds of loud oil tankers carrying millions of gallons of dirty oil through their habitat," said Monsell. "We can't let what the Exxon Valdez spill did to killer whales off Alaska happen to Southern Residents too."

In order to authorize the project, the Canadian government must determine that the project is in the public interest. Canada's National Energy Board issued a report finding the project met that standard in May, but the Governor in Council has yet to make a final decision. A decision is expected in December.

At the Center for Biological Diversity, we believe that the welfare of human beings is deeply linked to nature — to the existence in our world of a vast diversity of wild animals and plants. Because diversity has intrinsic value, and because its loss impoverishes society, we work to secure a future for all species, great and small, hovering on the brink of extinction. We do so through science, law and creative media, with a focus on protecting the lands, waters and climate that species need to survive.

(520) 623-5252