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Special Tar Sands Section

More Than 200 Pack Mobile Bay Conference Center to Fight Canadian Tar Sands Crude Pipeline

Citizens Alarmed at Tax Subsidized Expansion of International Petrochemical Storage and Transportation Hubs

By Glynn Wilson –

MOBILE BAY, Ala. – More than 200 concerned citizens, public officials and environmental activists showed up at a citizens-called town hall public hearing Tuesday night to learn more about a plan to pump thick, hot Canadian tar sands crude oil making its way to the Gulf Coast in rail cars through a new pipeline under the Mobile area’s fresh drinking water reservoir.

Tom Hutchings of EcoSolutions and founder of the Alabama Coastal Foundation moderated the meeting and said when he found out about the pipeline plan, “I was absolutely dumbfounded and mad.”
He showed aerial photographs of the area where the pipeline is in the works, as well as the rail terminal where the Canadian tar sands oil is already making it’s way to the Gulf Coast by train to be exported overseas through the Port of Mobile.

“Air quality, water quality, we’re all for that. But when it comes down to our drinking water that’s something that’s very personal to all of us,” he said. “If we can’t stop the pipeline that’s going to Pascagoula, to Chevron, let’s at least get some safeguards in place. We’ve got to get organized in a way that can be effective.”

This southeastern-most leg of a national tar sands oil pipeline network (see maps below) consists of a 45-mile long, 24-inch pipe carrying crude so thick it has to be heated with natural gas and diluted with other dangerous chemicals. This section along will require 128 permits for wetlands crossings and another 11 permits to cross streams. It has already been approved by the Alabama Public Service Commission, led by former Republican Gov. Bob Riley aide Twinkle Cavanaugh, who received a total of $88,902 in 2012 that can be traced directly to either coal mining companies or political action committees funded primarily by Alabama coal companies.

This pipeline should be halted, by legal or political means — or at least rerouted away from the pristine drinking water source Mobile established for itself many years ago, Big Creek Lake, west of town way out in the country. That was the dominant sentiment in the room, even among the political leadership in the city of Mobile, Mobile County and the Mobile Area Water and Sewer Board. There’s no development around the reservoir, not even a fishing pier, although on an on-the-ground excursion on Wednesday, we did spot two fishing boats in the lake.

Watch the video - Aerial photo and illustration by Tom Hutchings, EcoSolutions

Glynn Wilson
Editor & Publisher
The Locust Fork News-Journal

Tar Sands Video

Download the Talking Points PDF to learn more.

Update: Opposition to Proposed Pipeline and Tar Sands Threatening Mobile's Drinking Water

Recently we learned that Canadian National Railway (CN) is shipping Canadian tar sands oil, sometimes called bitumen or heavy crude, into Mobile on heated rail cars like the ones that recently exploded in Canada. Because tar sands oil does not flow, it will need to be offloaded using a steaming process. ARC Terminals, which is also in the process of expanding their tank farm storage facility, has applied for a permit to build a rail car unloading facility on a leased parcel of property at 56 Beauregard Street (near downtown Mobile) and to then pump the oil to tanks on Blakely Island. We suspect (but have not confirmed) that a controversial forty-one mile long pipeline currently under construction by Plains Southcap will be used to move the tar sands oil from Mobile, through the Big Creek Lake watershed, to the Chevron refinery in Pascagoula, MS. Big Creek Lake is the sole source of drinking water for hundreds of thousands of residents in the metro-Mobile area.

See this information from MobileBayKeeper: What’s so amazing about the job of being the Mobile Baykeeper and yet so completely challenging is how often we are faced with a new issue that our local community has never had to address.  The latest is oil and gas pipelines and the transportation of differing types of crude oil.  While crude oil is piped and transported across the nation on a regular basis, more and more accidents are occurring that require the community take a very close look at each project before simply signing off.

Our first step in any new project is research, so to begin to answer the question posed to us fairly regularly of late, we have to tease out the pieces.  First off, there are two separate pipelines that will affect our community: Pipeline 1) GCAC’s Mobile River pipeline and Pipeline 2) Plains Southcap, LLC Mobile to Mississippi line.  Both will be carrying crude oil, but only one – that we know – will carry tar sands crude oil.  Click here to learn why tar sands is worrying communities across the United States and Canada. (more of the commentary here) (from Carol Adams-Davis, Mobile Bay Sierra Club)