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For Immediate Release
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Greenpeace Report: Trans Mountain "Oil Tanker Superhighway" Endangers Pacific Coast Marine Life, Communities and Billions in Economic Activity


Today, barely a week after one of the last remaining Southern Resident Orcas was presumed dead, Greenpeace released a new report documenting the communities, marine life, and about CAD$83 billion in economic activity under threat from the increased tar sands tanker traffic the Trans Mountain Expansion Project would bring to the Pacific Coast.

The report was prepared by Greenpeace U.S.A. and was released as the Greenpeace ship the Arctic Sunrise travels the tanker route, which could see a seven-fold increase in tar sands tanker traffic if the project is built. The report documents the ways in which a number of U.S. communities are threatened by the TMEP, which risks poisoning water, jeopardizes the hundreds of thousands of jobs that depend on clean coasts, violates Indigenous sovereignty, and threatens the extinction of the Southern Resident Orca, of which only 75 remain. Tanker traffic is a key driver of threats to the orcas' survival.

Mike Hudema, Climate and Energy Campaigner at Greenpeace Canada, said: "The new Trans Mountain pipeline would increase tanker traffic seven-fold to around 400 tankers each year from Kinder Morgan's Westridge terminal, creating an oil tanker superhighway and ratcheting up the risk of a tar sands oil spill to unacceptably high levels. The risks of this project do not end at the water's edge or Canada's colonial border. Should Prime Minister Trudeau nationalize this pipeline or sell it to any other buyer, they should expect resistance from a united Pacific Coast coming together to protect our collective health and safety, as well as the sustainability of coastal economies, ocean life and our climate."

Dr. Lindy Weilgart, a marine biologist and bioacoustics expert with the Department of Biology at Dalhousie University, said: "A seven-fold increase in tanker traffic will most certainly impact the entire coastal ecosystem of the area, from invertebrates and fish to whales, by adding underwater noise to the soundscape, substantially degrading the quality of the habitat. Marine life will struggle to cope with the underwater noise on top of the other risks and pollutants associated with shipping dirty oil, including spills, ship strikes killing whales, and emissions. I can't imagine why anyone would risk such a valuable, life-sustaining natural treasure and heritage for the sake of an energy source that is increasingly outdated and contributes to climate change."

The report's key findings include:

  • A diluted bitumen spill remains a risk for coastal communities all along the Pacific Coast -- from British Columbia to Washington to Oregon to California.
  • A map and analysis of 176 oil tanker and barge departures from the Westridge Marine Terminal in British Columbia from 2013 to the beginning of 2018, which show that more than half of departures from the Westridge Marine Terminal sail the length of the US Pacific Coast to southern California with some heading as far as Asia and Hawaii, putting vast swaths of the Pacific Ocean at risk of a diluted bitumen spill.
  • Studies have estimated a 10%-29% chance of a "worst case" tanker spill (>100,000 barrels) over the next 50 years.
  • Coastal communities that rely on fishing and tourism have suffered billions of dollars in economic damages following previous catastrophic marine oil spills, which makes the TMEP-related oil tanker traffic a major concern for them. The USD$60 billion (~CAD$80 billion) coastal economy of Washington, Oregon and California currently supports more than 150,000 jobs in commercial fishing and more than 525,000 jobs in coastal tourism. In Vancouver, British Columbia, "ocean-dependent activities" have been previously estimated to contribute as many as 36,680 person-years of employment and CAD$3.3 billion in GDP every year.
  • Studies have found that a major oil spill in Washington could cost USD$10.8 billion, and one in Vancouver could cost CAD$1.2 billion.

Resistance against the Trans Mountain project is growing in the U.S. and around the world. Washington State Governor Jay Inslee, former U.S. vice-president Al Gore, renowned UN and Columbia University economist Jeffrey Sachs, and several U.S.-based Indigenous and environmental groups have voiced their concerns. Companies like Kinder Morgan, TransCanada and Enbridge have already had to abandon major pipeline projects in the face of public opposition. Meanwhile, major banks like HSBC and BNP Paribas have refused to provide new financing for tar sands projects, highlighting that these projects are a financial and reputational liability.

Greenpeace is a global, independent campaigning organization that uses peaceful protest and creative communication to expose global environmental problems and promote solutions that are essential to a green and peaceful future.

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