Will we boil in our own oil?

The recent two-column series on the June 7th Plains Midstream Canada pipeline leak of 3,000 barrels of light sour crude oil into the Red Deer River has drawn considerable reader comment, all of it saying, in effect, “enough is worse than enough, it is too much!”

The recent two-column series on the June 7th Plains Midstream Canada pipeline leak of 3,000 barrels of light sour crude oil into the Red Deer River has drawn considerable reader comment, all of it saying, in effect, “enough is worse than enough, it is too much!”

Many comments expressed the hope that that the U.S. denying approval for the Keystone Pipeline down there, and our own native people and environmentalists opposing the Gateway Pipeline in B.C., may ultimately save us Albertans and Alberta from boiling in our own oil.

Many readers were delighted with the “poetry” of the Michigan official likening the negligence and non-performance of our own Enbridge in their huge pipeline spill into the Kalamazoo River to the famously inept Keystone Kops.

Three readers who live along the Red Deer have independently come to the shocking conclusion that the leak into the Red Deer near Sundre probably went on for considerably longer than we are being told and that oil probably flowed over or under Dickson Dam and into the river downstream before the booms were in place that allegedly confined the oil to Glennifer Lake.

Now that Premier Redford has retreated from her stupidly mistaken statement at Glennifer Lake on June 9th about how “fortunate we are that pipeline spills don’t happen very often in Alberta,” and her government has belatedly called what is billed as a wide-ranging and independent inquiry into pipeline safety, there must be hearings — an opportunity for people to present their own independent findings.

Required reading for anyone interested in pipeline safety in particular and the future of Alberta in general, and that should include all Albertans, is an article in the summer 2012 issue, now on news stands, of Fly Rod & Reel magazine, “Black Bile From the North,” by Ted Williams.

Williams has covered the environment for Fly Rod & Reel for nearly 30 years and for Audubon Magazine for longer than that, and is arguably the most incisive environmental writer in North America.

Sub-title of Williams’s FR&R article is “Foreign interests want to gouge the world’s dirtiest oil from under Canada’s vast boreal forest and pipe it through some of North America’s most important fish and wildlife habitat.”

The article’s factual indictment and the pictures accompanying it are compelling and chilling for an Albertan, because Williams shows what we are doing first to the environment of everyone and everything here in Alberta even before we get around to peddling and shipping what we gouge from the ground: “black bile,” “the world’s dirtiest oil,” what Williams calls “dilbit,” diluted bitumen, more acidic and sulphuric than conventional crude, but also containing sand; the combination guarantees the quick internal corrosion of pipelines.

Read Williams’s article and weep, then wonder how and why so few Alberta journalists have ever so thoroughly investigated a subject so important to Alberta.

If you can’t find FR&R magazine, it should be “up” on their website in the near future.

Readers frequently question my preference for the “heresy” of fishing flies — even dry flies — downstream, casting slack into the line, etc., and the ease of teaching kids to fly fish that way. Well, the fly fishing world is either catching up with me, or gearing down to where I am.

That same current issue of Fly Rod & Reel and also the current issue of Fly Fisherman magazine are full of articles and mentions of these methods, even my old “British” method of fishing three wet flies at once.

Nothing raises my own internal pipelines’ black bile quite like the recent stories with headlines to this effect:

“One more year of pheasant hunting in Alberta has been guaranteed.”

The reference is to Upland Birds Alberta having lobbied the government into finding and fronting the money so UBA can plant 14,000 hatchery pheasants in Alberta again this year, after lame duck last minister of sustainable resource development, Frank Oberle, had earlier announced the stocking program would be cancelled.

Facts are hard to pry loose, but the birds, virtually all males, roosters, cocks, whatever, will likely cost $14 a head and will probably be planted by UBA mostly on Alberta’s “Designated Release Sites” (killing grounds), for quick execution by shooters who, for one reason of another, just do not hunt wild pheasants.

Thus, the headline should read “one more year of pheasant killing has been guaranteed.”

Pheasants were introduced into Alberta by the Alberta Fish and Game Association around 100 years ago.

By 1932, the non-native upland game birds had sufficiently established themselves that a hunting season was opened for them.

Since then, with one season cancelled for a spurious mercury scare, we have had annual pheasant hunting seasons ever since.

As the weather goes, there are up and down years, but, since 1932, it has always been the wild pheasants in good habitat, and not hatchery birds dumped into killing grounds, which have “guaranteed” each succeeding season of pheasant hunting.

Bob Scammell is an award-winning outdoors writer living in Red Deer.

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