JASPER, Alberta — In two very different places last week, one a mountain town in Alberta and the other the farm-and-ranch country of Nebraska, the question of how the bitumen from Alberta's tar sands may be exported was debated.
In Jasper, 200 people gathered to hear 40 aboriginal leaders from British Columbia explain their opposition to the Northern Gateway pipeline that would transport the diluted bitumen to a port at Kitimat, B.C. The aboriginals fear the risk of the pipeline leaking, despoiling the creeks whose salmon have provided them sustenance.
While transport company Enbridge is offering the First Nations $280 million in net income over the next 30 years to cross their land, one of the leaders, Pete Erickson, also known as hereditary Chief Tsohdih, said it's not about the money. It's about protecting ancestral lands.
"We're here about just simply the Earth," he told Jasper's Fitzhugh, a newspaper. "And I think most people are grounded, and they listen to that message."
In Nebraska, the issue was much the same. In the farming town of Neligh, 70 people listened as a lawyer described their legal options as another company, TransCanada, tries to extend a 36-inch pipeline called Keystone XL through their property.
One of those at the meeting, fourth-generation rancher Karl Connell explained that it wasn't just the money, and it wasn't just the question of whether a foreign company should be able to force him to accept its pipeline through a process called eminent domain.
It was also, said Connell, a question of how a ruptured pipeline would affect his ability to grow grass to feed cattle on his ranch in the Sand Hills. TransCanada has assured him of the pipeline's safety, but he isn't buying it.
Gas drilling faulted for fouled air
JACKSON, Wyo. — Air in Jackson Hole remains of high quality, despite the proximity of one of the West's great natural gas bonanzas just an hour to the south.
The American Lung Association tells the Jackson Hole News& Guide that Jackson Hole had just one day of bad air in the last three years. On that one bad day, ozone concentrations were high enough that young children, the elderly and people with respiratory disease were advised to stay indoors. What caused that high level of ozone was not reported.
About an hour south, in the valley between the Wind Range and Wyoming mountain ranges, the air quality is far worse. Pinedale and Sublette County had 15 alert days, 14 because of ozone and one because of particulates. Included were several days when everybody, including healthy adults, was advised to stay outdoors.
The primary problem is the pollution caused by engines used to drill for natural gas in the Jonah and Pinedale Anticline fields, two of the hot spots in the Rocky Mountain West. Some ozone, however, is natural.