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Opposition to shipping tar sands oil across the Great Lakes continues to grow

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The opposition to the expansion of the Alberta Clipper transporting tar sands oil from Hardisty, Alberta to Superior, Wisconsin continues to grow. Last week over a dozen U.S. environmental organizations sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry calling for the Alberta Clipper and Keystone XL to be reviewed together.

This week National Chairperson Maude Barlow and I sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry raising our concerns about Enbridge's Alberta Clipper (Line 67) project and asking that Kerry reject the presidential permit allowing for the Alberta Clipper expansion project.

The project near doubles the pipeline's current capacity to 800,000 barrels per day (bpd). Approval has been given to increase capacity to 570,000 bpd and this expansion project is expected to be completed by July. Among our concerns are the potential for oil spills, the impact of tar sands expansion on climate change, the environmental risks which Environment Canada have noted and the lack of free, prior and informed consent of indigenous communities along the route.

The project is expected to pave the way for more tar sands projects around the Great Lakes including the Calumet Specialty Products-Elkhorn Industries project that would have tar sands or fracked oil shipped across the Great Lakes. Another project is Line 5 that would transport tar sands oil through the Straits of Mackinac, known as the heart of the Great Lakes.

In the letter, we wrote: "Line 67 enables tar sands expansion and increases climate pollution. When tar sands pipelines spill, they jeopardize freshwater supplies and cause extensive environmental damage that is difficult to clean up. Tar sands crude, known as bitumen, is heavy and requires toxic chemicals to dilute it. In 2010, a tar sands pipeline ruptured, flooding the Kalamazoo River in Michigan with 3.8 million litres of diluted bitumen that sank to the bottom of the river. Conventional clean-up methods have not worked and, despite costing over $1 billion, the river is still polluted."

We highlighted that: "The Great Lakes and all watersheds are a commons, meaning that they are a common heritage that belongs to the Earth, other species as well as current and future generations. The Lakes are also a public trust meaning that certain natural resources, including groundwater, belong to communities and cannot be privately owned or controlled. This is because of the resources' inherent importance to each individual and society as a whole and they must be protected from risky fossil fuel projects like this one."

Elkhorn Industries is expected to resubmit their application for dock repairs which would lead to building an oil terminal from which tar sands and fracked oil would be shipped across the Great Lakes. With so many communities demanding protection of the Great Lakes and transitioning away from tar sands oil, proponents of these projects can expect even more oppositions from Canadian, Indigenous and U.S. communities.

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