A local environmental group is looking to put the brakes on a burgeoning plan to ship oil by rail through northern B.C.
"Shipping oil by rail, from our understanding, is more dangerous than shipping oil by pipeline,"
Sea to Sands Conservation Alliance spokeswoman Sonja Ostertag said. "We know what happens when we put oil on trains, there's human error, there's an accident and oil spills everywhere."
With the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline project from northern Alberta to Kitimat in limbo pending a recommendation on its environmental review and a decision by the federal government, shipping bitumen by rail is another option gaining steam.
Environmental group Greenpeace used access to information legislation to find Natural Resources Canada documents showing the Chinese-owned oil company Nexan is considering plans to ship oil along Canadian National's northern B.C. line to a yet-to-be-built export terminal in Prince Rupert.
The documents obtained by Greenpeace and posted online make the case for oil by rail by pointing out it can match Northern Gateway's output, doesn't require the oil to be diluted for shipment and oil companies can ship different products in different cars.
However Ostertag said none of that changes the fact her groups believes there's too much of a risk to important watersheds and the wildlife that rely upon those rivers and streams to ship oil through northern B.C.
"The prospect of having 550,000 barrels of oil shipped by rail everyday sounds to me worse than having it shipped by pipeline," she said.
According to the Greenpeace obtained documents, there was no timeline on the the plan and CN spokesman Mark Hallman told the Canadian Press it won't "disclose publicly its commercial discussions with customers."
However, Hallman also told the news agency that the railway always looks for new markets to ship crude oil.
Northern Gateway spokesman Ivan Giesbrecht said shipping oil by rail to the north coast wouldn't have any impact on the economic viability of the pipeline plan.
In the meantime, Ostertag said Sea to Sands will stay focused on its opposition to Northern Gateway because the group feels it's the most pressing oil shipping plan.