On December 18th, The Wilderness Committee announced that it wants the Manitoba NDP provincial government to pass provincial legislation against the rail shipment of oil to Churchill.
OmniTrax, which owns the railway to Hudson Bay Railway (HBR) and the Port of Churchill, wants to ship 3.3 million barrels per year by means of the HBR to Churchill. It plans a trial shipment of 330,000 barrels of Albertan oil in July.
The Wilderness Committee's Eric Reder, the environmental group’s campaign director in Manitoba, said
the federal government may have jurisdiction, but the Lac Megantic accident, which killed 47 people in Quebec last year, might shift the balance of legislative authority when it comes to shipping oil. ...
He said shipping oil through Churchill is an outlandish concept for a long list of reasons.
The community’s economy depends heavily on tourists who visit the community to see polar bears. However, Reder said an expanded petroleum industry would spew additional carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, which warms the Arctic Ocean and puts polar bears at risk.
“Far and away the biggest concern (with shipping oil to Churchill) is that we would build more fossil fuel infrastructure, which keeps us on a path of running our country and civilization for 10 years longer than we need to on oil,” he said.
“It can’t be said too strongly how insane the plan is to take great risk to increase fossil fuel extraction.”
As well, Reder said the Hudson Bay rail line is unsuitable for oil shipments. He traveled to Churchill by rail in the fall, and there were multiple derailments on the track or at the port during his stay.
“Four days of travel and four accidents on that line,” he said.
“People tell you how bad this track is. You can see how bad this track is. It’s obvious why there are problems.”
He said there is also the risk of an oil spill in Hudson Bay, which would be nearly impossible to clean up.
Skimmer ships, booms and dispersants are used to contain and mitigate oil spills in warmer climates, but those maritime resources don’t exist on Hudson Bay. Even if they were in place, he added, it’s unlikely such strategies would work.
“Skimmer ships don’t work because they don’t work in waves and they don’t work on ice,” he said.
“We can’t handle a spill up there.”
Merv Tweed resigned as Con MP for Brandon-Souris in order to take over as President of OmniTrax Canda in September, 2013, showing how closely linked the Harper government is to this project.
Former Liberal Cabinet Minister Lloyd Axworthy has heartily endorsed Tweed's taking over of OmniTrax and looks forward to working closely with him, suggesting where the Libs are likely to stand on this issue.