You’ve probably had your planet-loving heart broken before, but this time it truly can be different.

Stop Shell infographic

Shell wants to build two new massive new open-pit tar sands mines in northern Alberta. Normally the odds of stopping a new tar sands mine are up there with the Leafs winning the Cup. But right now, Shell finds itself caught in a double bind which is putting these projects in doubt.

So I’m asking you to take a chance on eco-love one last time and get involved in helping stop them.

Greenpeace’s Harper’s Shell Game report lays out why we think these projects, and the pipelines required to export this new production, are bad for the environment, the economy and democracy. But right now Shell is probably more concerned about being caught between a rock (opposition to new pipelines) and a hard place (their admission that they would break Alberta’s new environmental laws).

There is a powerful and growing uprising against the new pipelines Shell will need to get their oil to market. It started with the Keystone XL pipeline (which Prime Minister Harper called a "no-brainer" but that Obama turned down in the face of grassroots opposition). After Keytone was put on hold, the oil industry and the Harper government focused on getting pipelines through BC, but they are running into stiff opposition there too. Opposition strong enough that bankers are scaling back their forecast of tar sands growth due to limited pipeline capacity. And there are a lot of new projects in the queue ahead of Shell.

The oil industry has launched a charm offensive, while the federal government attacked environmentalists, but the public generally isn't buying their sales pitch.  

A poll released yesterday shows that the opposition to tar sands pipelines and tankers is now so widespread in British Columbia, including amongst federal Conservative party supporters, that politicians ignore it at their peril. So it was not terribly surprising (although still a blow to democracy) to see BC Premier Christy Clark’s cancel the entire Fall session of the legislature, or to read Evan Solomon of CBC’s Power and Politics musing that her decision is perhaps in part to avoid “those pipeline opponents and their planned mass sit-in at the B.C. legislature in October”. (More on the October 22nd Defend Our Coast sit-in here).

Opposition to the pipelines is largely centred on the impacts of the inevitable spills. As Nikki Skuce of Forest Ethics Advocacy argued in today’s Edmonton Journal:

“For most British Columbians, there is no overseas market for bitumen that would offset the loss of our Great Bear Rainforest and wild salmon rivers. There is no investment more lucrative than investing in clean water and sustainable economies for future generations. There is no insurance that can replace the great biodiversity and rich cultures that exist on our coast. Some things are priceless. No matter how you crunch the numbers, they just aren’t worth putting at risk to oil spills.”

Yet even on those days when the pipeline doesn’t spill, there are costs to the regional environment and community health in Alberta, as well as impacts on the global climate. How do we know this? Well, Shell told us so.

In their latest submission to the environmental assessment panel reviewing their proposal for an expansion of their Jackpine tar sands mine, the company itself acknowledged that if these mines are allowed to proceed, they would result in pollution levels in excess of Alberta’s brand new limits.  According to the Globe and Mail:

“A week after Alberta enacted hard limits on air and water pollutants in its oil sands-rich northeastern corner, Shell Canada published a document that predicts the industry will exceed some of those limits. In the document submitted to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency last week, Shell says oil sands projects with provincial approval will, if all built, push levels of sulphur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide over new provincial thresholds in some areas. The company found that the combination of existing and coming projects threatens to wipe out caribou, acidify nearly two dozen lakes and produce some air emissions higher than regional standards enacted by the government of Alberta on Sept. 1….

Regulators “will need to start turning down projects to stay under the limits, or they’re seriously going to have to ratchet back on the performance of all the existing operators to try to get those pollutants down to levels to enable the industry to grow,” Simon Dyer, policy director at the Pembina Institute, a Calgary-based environmental lobby group.”

The Alberta government is trying to downplay these findings, but the more public attention and pressure they get the harder it is for them to give Shell a get-out-of-eco-jail-free card. 

This is why it is worth your time with the panel to share your views on whether this project should go ahead: the more people who show an interest by making a submission, the harder it is for governments to ignore what the science is telling them.  

There is a user-friendly form and more details on the project at www.stopshellnow.com that you can use to make a submission. Perhaps even express your concern on how the tar sands are the fastest-rising source of greenhouse gas emissions in Canada, and this project will increase them even further.

And don’t be afraid to share your new faith in eco-love with your friends.