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New website tracks route of Alberta crude on BC coast

As a long campaign against the Keystone XL pipeline comes to a head (with a decision expected by the new year), U.S. environmental group ForestEthics has turned its attention to the Pacific Northwest.

The focus is another Kinder Morgan project; a major expansion of the TransMountain pipeline that would see an additional quarter-million barrels per day of diluted bitumen from Alberta pumped in and shipped out on tankers via the Westbridge terminal, in Vancouver's Burrard Inlet.

In a joint effort with the Canadian branch of ForestEthics, the group has launched a new website, that tracks tankers carrying product from the Westbridge terminal.

The website specifically looks at data, collected by an atenna in Vancouver, from ships that fill up at the terminal -- information available through an international, automatic ship tracking system.

Using a shared database, the site's programmer can follow the ships to their destination. Currently, about 80 per cent are going to California, explained ForestEthics spokesperson Matt Krogh, at a press conference this morning.

Krogh said his group wanted to focus on ships carrying diluted bitumen, an unrefined oil product that poses complicated and dangerous clean-up challenges on land or water.

The website is part of a larger campaign to unite both Canadians and Americans against tar sands expansion, a movement that gained momentum with the proposed Keystone XL pipeline.

The Canadian government lobbied aggressively for Keystone in the U.S., promoting Canadian sands oil as a better alternative to importing product from less socially and politically stable countries.

But oil sands pipeline development in Canada has been anything but smooth. Enbridge's Northern Gateway pipeline has faced serious opposition from First Nations. And yesterday, the Yinka Dene filed a complaint to the United Nations about the federal government's position on the pipeline.

Krogh said that in the U.S. there's less awareness of Enbridge's Northern Gateway, but that people on both sides of the border are starting to pay attention to Kinder Morgan's TransMountain project. "This is a cross-border issue with cross-border significance."

Colleen Kimmett is an editor at The Tyee.

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