Greenpeace worries that rail is ‘Plan B’ to Northern Gateway oil line

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September 23, 2013

(The Canadian Press; Sept. 22) - CN Rail, at the urging of Chinese-owned Nexen, is considering shipping Alberta bitumen to Prince Rupert, B.C., by rail in quantities matching the controversial Northern Gateway pipeline, documents show. Internal memos obtained by Greenpeace under the Access to Information Act show the rail carrier raised the proposal last March with Natural Resources Canada.

"Nexen Inc. is reportedly working with CN to examine the transportation of crude oil on CN's railway to Prince Rupert, B.C., to be loaded onto tankers for export to Asia," states a departmental briefing for the March 1 meeting. An attached CN presentation says, "CN has ample capacity to run seven trains per day to match Gateway's proposed capacity." CN denies it has made a specific proposal, but says it will consider any such project as it comes up. Greenpeace provided the documents to The Canadian Press.

The proposed Northern Gateway pipeline, which would carry crude oil to Kitimat, B.C., has met fierce opposition from First Nations and environmentalists. Greenpeace researcher Keith Stewart said the CN rail pitch has the appearance of a "Plan B" in case Northern Gateway is blocked, but that it raises "the same or greater risks." The horrific Lac-Megantic, Que., disaster in July, which claimed 47 lives when a train carrying crude oil derailed and exploded, has focused scrutiny on the burgeoning oil-by-rail industry.

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