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Cost of an Oil Spill Too High

February 20th, 2015 | Posted by Lee

The clean up cost of oil spills has come into question as more crude oil is being transported across the US and Canada. With recent train derailments causing oil spills and explosions, the damage that can be caused by oil transport is becoming more apparent.

Monday February 16th a train carrying 3 millions gallons of Bakken crude oil derailed in West Virginia. The train consisted of 109 tanker cars, 26 of which had been derailed. Of the 26 derailed cars, all of which were built to new higher standards following the tragic Lac Megantic derailment, 19 were involved in a fire that was still ablaze on Wednesday, two days after the initial crash. Crude oil was also spilled into the Kanawha River. Several 100 people were left without drinking water and with winter weather impacting the area a timely response for clean up was not an option.

The risk of an oil spill on the St. Lawrence River is an emerging threat as companies seek ways to transport the hug buildup of Bakken and tar sands oil. One oil tanker can carry the equivalent product of 225 rail cars or 870 trucks. If a ship carrying oil on the River was involved in an incident, a spill might not be the worse that could happen. In any case the end results would be devastating and the damage unimaginable.

The Council of Canadians and Équiterre have issued a new report that make it clear that an oil spill in Lac Saint-Pierre on the St. Lawrence River, where tar sands oil has already been shipped, would cost billions to clean up – far more than the liability limit in Canada.

The environmental impact would be devastating to this UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve recognized as a wetland of international importance. Lac Saint-Pierre is a drinking water source and home to 27 species of rare plants, 79 species of fish, and 288 species of waterfowl. Although down river from Montreal, it stands as a chilling illustration of what could happen on some of the most difficult to navigate sections of the St. Lawrence between Kingston – Cape Vincent and the Seaway locks at Massena.

“Lac Saint-Pierre is a treasure and a wonder in the area. One oil spill could be the death of it all for future generations,” says Steven Guilbeault of Équiterre. “Given the high environmental price of a spill, diluted bitumen shipments should not be permitted on the St. Lawrence River.”

Shipments of diluted bitumen from the Alberta tar sands are expected to increase as oil giant Suncor and pipeline company TransCanada ramp up exports from ports on the St. Lawrence River. Bitumen from the tar sands is extremely difficult to contain and clean up when spilled on water as it tends to sink to the bottom.

The study also reports that in the event of an oil spill, emergency response would be limited by ice conditions and inadequate capacity of the small private company responsible for oil spill cleanup on the St. Lawrence. Under normal conditions, a spill could travel the length of Lac Saint-Pierre in eight hours – far quicker than a response can be mounted.

“We should be reducing the amount of oil shipped on the St. Lawrence, not increasing it,” says Mark Calzavara of the Council of Canadians. “Doubling the number of supertankers and doubling their size means that a disastrous oil spill is just a matter of time.”

The report recommends reducing the allowable ship size and number of exports, increasing emergency response capacity, removing the liability limit, and making the exporting company jointly responsible for damages.

The report is available at: http://www.canadians.org/LacStPierre

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Can Alberta Sands oil be safely shipped on the St. Lawrence?

February 10th, 2015 | Posted by Lee

By Julia Botero                                                                                                                                         Published on February 10, 2015 by North Country Public Radio

Crude oil from the Midwest is moved by pipeline and rail across the United States and through parts of New York’s North Country. Some companies are interested in shipping oil to East Coast refineries by way of the St. Lawrence River.

At a conference organized last weekend by the Thousand Islands-based group, Save the River, environmentalists voiced concern over the potential of a catastrophic oil spill.

The St. Lawrence River is frozen solid right now, but when spring arrives tankers will begin their slow journey up and down the waterway. The tankers carry huge amounts of heavy raw materials like grain, iron, and coal to ports in the United States and Canada. Only a few shipments of crude oil from Alberta Sands in Canada and the Bakken in North Dakota have come through the seaway, but environmentalists and state official are concerned more will come. Lee Willbanks, director of Save the River said, “This is a huge issue because there is a lot of oil in different forms being extracted in the Midwest in our country and in Alberta Canada. And right now there is more oil coming out of the ground then has a conduit to a refinery.”

Gary McCullough, with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation said, “Fundamentally my concern is that spills on the St. Lawrence River would be extremely challenging to clean up.” Mcllouch said that is because the river’s current is really strong. “The oil will move on the water faster than we have the ability to contain it. If you lost a large amount of oil on Alexandria Bay, that oil has already transversed to Massena.”

McCullough mentioned the Nepco spill of 1976. A massive barge carrying thick motor oil ran aground and spilled 500,000 gallons. “You can still see oil strips on rocks up in Ogdensburg, Lisbon area,” he said.

McCullough said much of that oil floated. The oil from the Tar Sands, on the other hand, is much heavier and may not float. Oil that sinks causes more damage because it is almost impossible to completely remove from a river floor. Emma Lui, with the Council of Canadians, said the company Suncor has already shipped Alberta Tar Sands oil along the River this past fall. Lui said, “The shipments that happen with Suncor really set a precedent for other shipments to happen.”

Lui said her organization released a study that found the cost to clean up just 10 percent of the oil from a Suncor tanker would be more than the Canadian government can afford. “We are not prepared nationally and locally — the mayors in the communities aren’t prepared either and if we aren’t prepared we should be doing this.“

Lee Willbanks said talking about the worst case scenarios when it comes to shipping oil can, at the very least, make those in charge think before they act. “It is really shame on us if we as a community don’t demand this discussion and have it in every level of government before we ship this,” he said.

The current low price of oil means shippers aren’t moving much, but that could change by the time the seaway reopens for navigation in March.

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Panel to Discuss Oil Transport at Winter Environmental Conference

January 23rd, 2015 | Posted by admin

Oil shipments on the St. Lawrence River are already an unpleasant reality. However, the dramatically increased extraction of heavy oil and bitumen from the Alberta tar sands has lead to increased pressure to transport these cargoes on and near the River. These volatile cargoes pose new and alarming threats to the River as the unique chemical characteristics make them difficult to handle and recover if spilled.

Cardi Report Image

A panel of experts will examine the implications of moving these new, toxic cargoes on and near the St. Lawrence River. The panel will include Kushan Dave, Cornell University, co-author of the recently published report “A New Era of Crude Oil Transport”, Emma Lui, National Water Campaigner, Council of Canadians, Anthony Mangoni, District Response Advisory Team Supervisor, Ninth Coast Guard District, and Gary McCullough, Regional Spill Engineer, NYS DEC Region 6.

There will also be a visual presentation about the source of this potential new cargo by Alex MacLean.

Save The River’s 26th Winter Environmental Conference will be held on Saturday February 7th, 2015 at the 1000 Islands Harbor Hotel.

For more information and how to register visit our Winter Environmental Conference webpage.

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55th Anniversary of the Seaway Opening

June 26th, 2014 | Posted by admin

Seaway Opening

JUNE 26, 1959: The Queen opened the 2,300-mile St Lawrence Seaway on this day in 1959. A lot has changed since then, but our water levels plan has not. Let’s hope this is the last anniversary with the outdated, destructive plan in place.

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Announcement of Spring Icebreaking Operations Along the St. Lawrence River

March 19th, 2014 | Posted by Lee

We received the following from the Canadian Coast Guard

Please pay attention to the announced dates of icebreaking activities and be very mindful of conditions when on the ice.

Notice of Public Interest

Spring Icebreaking Operations Along the St. Lawrence Seaway


MONTREAL, Quebec – The Canadian Coast Guard (CCG) is working closely with the United States Coast Guard (USCG) and the St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation in planning the Spring 2014 icebreaking operations in both the Seaway and on the Great Lakes.


The Canadian Coast Guard, in partnership with the United States Coast Guard and the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP), is advising residents and visitors near the Great Lakes / St. Lawrence Seaway that annual spring icebreaking operations will begin on or around March 21, 2014.


  • The Canadian Coast Guard Ship (CCGS) Martha L. Black, icebreaker, will enter the Seaway via the St. Lambert Locks (Quebec) on March 21 and make its way up the St. Lawrence River.

  • The CCGS Martha L. Black will be icebreaking in the Brockville (Ontario) area on or about March 22-23 and will proceed to Lake Ontario, where it will then assist with harbour breakouts in Picton NGCC_MARTHA_L._BLACK_au_port_de_Rimouski(Ontario) and Bath (Ontario). Once these harbours have been opened, the CCGS Martha L. Black will return downriver to assist with shipping in anticipation of the official opening of the Seaway, currently scheduled for March 31, 2014.

  • The CCGS Pierre Radisson will enter the Seaway on March 24, making its way to the Great Lakes to provide additional icebreaking capacity to the area.

The CCG strongly recommends that fishermen and snowmobilers and other recreational users leave the ice immediately if they see an icebreaker in the vicinity. The ice may move or break apart even at a significant distance, creating a hazard for anyone in the area of an icebreaker. All personal property, temporary structures and recreational equipment, should also be moved to shore well before these dates.


All dates and routes are subject to change with little or no notice due to operational requirements or sudden and significant changes to weather and ice conditions.


The 2013-2014 winter has produced unusually heavy and persistent ice conditions throughout the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence Seaway. Canadian Coast Guard crews and icebreakers have been working hard to provide icebreaking services during such a challenging time.


Public service announcements made prior to impending icebreaker and shipping activity are issued for the safety of all ice surface users, who can expect disrupted and unstable ice conditions related to icebreaking and shipping operations.


Quick Facts

  • Icebreaking operations and shipping traffic create fragmented ice or open water that may be: difficult to see from afar; may be obscured by newly fallen snow; may not refreeze immediately and may be further weakened due to changes in weather.

  • Icebreaking creates locally unstable ice conditions or open water that may persist long after ships have left the area.

  • All ice near icebreaking operations and shipping activity should be considered unsafe.

  • Canadian Coast Guard and United States Coast Guard assets in the Great Lakes are working hard together to maintain or open routes for maritime commerce, despite extreme and persistent ice conditions on the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence Seaway.


FOR MORE INFORMATION:

Rachelle Smith

Communications Manager

Fisheries and Oceans Canada

Canadian Coast Guard

Central and Arctic Region

Rachelle.Smith@dfo-mpo.gc.ca

(204) 983-4197

Internet: http://www.dfo-mpo.gc.ca

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Seaway Opening Delayed to March 31.

March 18th, 2014 | Posted by Lee

Seaway Notice 8

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Respect the Conditions on the River, Delay the Seaway Opening

March 17th, 2014 | Posted by Lee

2014-03-17 Seaway Opening Ltr

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Tell Congress “Don’t weaken environmental review of Army Corps projects!”

September 18th, 2013 | Posted by Lee
Congressional committee is poised to approve bill undermining environmental reviews of Army Corps of Engineers water resources projects.
Last week the House Transportation and Infrastructure (T&I) Committee released their version of the Water Resources Reform Development Act (WRRDA)**. Recently the Senate passed its own version. Both bills contain similar “streamlining” language that would substantially undermine effective environmental review of proposed Army Corps of Engineers water projects under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and other environmental laws, including the Endangered Species Act.
These provisions will make it much harder to fight bad Army Corps projects like Seaway Expansion and winter navigation, should they be re-introduced.
The House T&I Committee plans to take up WRRDA tomorrow, September 19th.
Everyone concerned about adequate, appropriate and critical review of Army Corps actions on the St. Lawrence River should contact their representative about the harmful provisions in the bill and about new reforms that should be added to the bill.
We urge you to tell your representative that the harmful environmental “streamlining” provisions must be stripped from the bill to ensure continued protection of the St. Lawrence River and our nation’s other inland waterways.
Please reach out to your Congress person and express your concerns with the House bill.  If your House member is not on the T&I Committee ask them to reach out to the T&I Committee with your concerns.
Here are the basic points to make:
Strike the environmental streamlining provisions in the bill – Sections 101 and 103.
Strike the provision that eliminates the requirement for “reconnaissance studies” – the provision we used successfully to stop expansion of the Seaway – Section 104.
Amend the “Inland Waterways Stakeholder Roundtable” language to require the inclusion of conservation organizations (such as Save The River) – Section 215.
Strike provisions that encourage massive amounts of additional dredging at full taxpayer expense.
Amend the bill to require the Corps to use cost-effective, low impact solutions wherever possible.
Amend the bill to require mitigation consistent with recommendations made by the nation’s fish and wildlife experts pursuant to the Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act.
To find your Congress person click here.
Of course, Bill Owens should also hear from all of us since he represents the St. Lawrence River region.
To read the most recent letter from a broad coalition of national and regional conservation groups, including Save The River, opposing environmental “streamlining” click here.
For additional background click here to a read the National Wildlife Federation’s section-by-section analysis of the House bill.
Members of New York’s Congressional delegation on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee are:
Timothy Bishop
Richard Hanna
Sean Patrick Maloney
Jerrold Nadler
Feel free to contact us with any questions or feedback you may receive.

Congressional committee is poised to approve bill undermining environmental reviews of Army Corps of Engineers water resources projects.

Last week the House Transportation and Infrastructure (T&I) Committee released their version of the Water Resources Reform Development Act (WRRDA)**. Recently the Senate passed its own version. Both bills contain similar “streamlining” language that would substantially undermine effective environmental review of proposed Army Corps of Engineers water projects under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and other environmental laws, including the Endangered Species Act.
.
These provisions will make it much harder to fight bad Army Corps projects like Seaway Expansion and winter navigation, should they be re-introduced.


The House T&I Committee plans to take up WRRDA tomorrow, September 19th.

Everyone concerned about adequate, appropriate and critical review of Army Corps actions on the St. Lawrence River should contact theirSeaway Construction representative about the harmful provisions in the bill and about new reforms that should be added to the bill.

We urge you to tell your representative that the harmful environmental “streamlining” provisions must be stripped from the bill to ensure continued protection of the St. Lawrence River and our nation’s other inland waterways.

Please reach out to your Congress person and express your concerns with the House bill.  If your House member is not on the T&I Committee ask them to reach out to the T&I Committee with your concerns.

Here are the basic points to make:

  • Strike the environmental streamlining provisions in the bill – Sections 101 and 103.
  • Strike the provision that eliminates the requirement for “reconnaissance studies” – the provision we used successfully to stop expansion of the Seaway – Section 104.
  • Amend the “Inland Waterways Stakeholder Roundtable” language to require the inclusion of conservation organizations (such as Save The River) – Section 215.
  • Strike provisions that encourage massive amounts of additional dredging at full taxpayer expense.
  • Amend the bill to require the Corps to use cost-effective, low impact solutions wherever possible.
  • Amend the bill to require mitigation consistent with recommendations made by the nation’s fish and wildlife experts pursuant to the Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act.

To find your Congress person click here.

Of course, Bill Owens should also hear from all of us since he represents the St. Lawrence River region.

To read the most recent letter from a broad coalition of national and regional conservation groups, including Save The River, opposing environmental “streamlining” click here.

For additional background click here to a read the National Wildlife Federation’s section-by-section analysis of the House bill.

Members of New York’s Congressional delegation on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee are:

Feel free to contact us with any questions or feedback you may receive.

** Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) is legislation which provides for the conservation and development of water and related resources and authorizes the Secretary of the Army to construct various projects for improvements to rivers and harbors of the United States, and for other purposes deemed appropriate by the U.S. Congress and the President of the United States.
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Words vs. Actions: Is the Seaway Green or Greenwashing?

March 22nd, 2011 | Posted by admin

Below is a commentary, written by Save The River’s Executive Director, reflecting on the opening of the 52nd Seaway season.

March 22, 2011

Today marks the beginning of another season of shipping on the St. Lawrence Seaway. We’re relieved that there is little ice on the main channel, removing the need for icebreaking to open the River for ship passage. Unfortunately, the navigation buoys sit on the River’s shore and many of the boat launches, which are critical staging areas in the event of a shipping accident or spill, remain closed with plenty of ice.

This year’s Seaway opening coincides with World Water Day, which serves as an annual global celebration of water and a day of action focused protecting our precious water resources. Ironically at the same time, the Seaway agencies and shipping industry are promoting a new ‘green’ public image. The U.S. Seaway agency’s annual report just arrived in our office last week and in it, the Seaway calls itself one of the most “environmentally responsible marine transportation systems in the world.” That’s a pretty big statement and we feel it deserves some scrutiny.

The Seaway agencies and shipping industry have systematically put themselves on the wrong side of environmental policy debates. For nearly 20 years, since the introduction of the zebra mussel, they resisted any rules to clean up ship ballast tanks to prevent further invasive species introductions. Three years ago, the Seaway finally established its own rules but they are the minimum protections available. And today, as state governments and citizens call for better protections against invasive species introductions, representatives from the shipping industry and the Seaway are walking the halls of Washington, Ottawa, Albany, and the courts arguing vigorously against stronger ballast clean up rules.

And, it doesn’t end with ballast. Shippers and the Seaway are on record opposing the environmentally beneficial water levels plan (Plan B+) that our communities have been supporting for years. They’ve fought for (and unfortunately won) exemptions from federal rules to clean up ship smokestack emissions, making some of the Great Lakes ships among the dirtiest air polluters in the industry. And, the Seaway has unilaterally extended the shipping season on the St. Lawrence River, with no input from River communities, state or federal environmental and safety agencies, or elected officials. These are not the actions of an “environmentally responsible” agency.

If the Seaway wants to be “environmentally responsible” and be seen as a good neighbor by those of us who rely on the River for our livelihood and our way of life, they must begin a good faith effort to work proactively to protect the St. Lawrence River and Great Lakes. For a few ideas, we suggest they start with the recommendations outlined by more than 50 environmental and conservation groups in the report “A Better Seaway”, which lays out a specific action plan to reach a truly sustainable and responsible marine transportation system. (Visit www.abetterseaway.org to learn more.)

Promoting a greener image is one thing, but without actions to back it up we have nothing but words from the Seaway, and no one to protect our River but ourselves.

– Jennifer J. Caddick, Save The River Executive Director & Upper St. Lawrence Riverkeeper

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Update: Seaway Denies Save The River’s Legal Petition

April 22nd, 2010 | Posted by admin

Earlier this week, the St. Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation denied Save The River’s recently filed legal petition, which asked the Seaway to make public the procedures for setting the Seaway’s opening date. (For more information, read the Seaway’s press release on their decision and the Watertown Daily Times article on the decision.)

Unfortunately, the denial of this petition was not unexpected. The Seaway has a history of opposing efforts that would bring transparency to their operating procedures. Even as most other federal agencies are working to comply with a recent white house memo requiring an unprecedented level of openness in government, the Seaway persists in its pattern of closing out stakeholders from important decisions that impact the health of the River and the safety of River communities.

Save The River and River communities have raised serious concerns about the early opening of the Seaway and winter shipping because of the dangers posed to the delicate ecosystem of the River. Risks of shipping in ice conditions include:

  • Icebreaking and winter shipping can cause significant damage to property and important wildlife habitat;
  • Spill response assets, such as boats and boom, are not accessible and usable due to ice conditions making clean-up of any spill near impossible until the ice has melted; and
  • Lighted navigation aids are not in place, raising concerns about the safe passage of ships.

Unfortunately, the Seaway agencies are inappropriately using the results of a recent, limited study to imply that winter shipping and icebreaking pose no risk to the St. Lawrence River.

In their denial, the Seaway hides behind Canada, by saying that a rulemaking cannot happen unilaterally; however nothing in Save The River’s petition prohibits the Seaway from coordinating with Canada in order to pull back the curtain on their decision making process and provide answers to the many important questions raised about winter shipping.

Save The River is working closely with our partners at the Conservation Law Clinic, which helped Save The River develop the petition, to determine options for moving forward, and ensure protection of the St. Lawrence River.

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