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St. Clair Channelkeeper calls for Panel Study on Shell mega-refinery proposed for the St. Clair

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St. Clair Channelkeeper calls for Panel Study on Shell mega-refinery proposed for the St. Clair River  

May 15, 2008

East China Township, Michigan.  St. Clair Channelkeeper, a member organization of Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s Waterkeeper Alliance, is calling on Michigan residents and communities to demand that Canada subject Shell Canada to the highest level of environmental assessment under Canadian law for the review of its proposed tar sands crude oil refinery on the St. Clair River.  

Shell Canada is proposing to build a large refinery complex on the Canadian side of the St. Clair River, just south of St. Clair, Michigan and directly across the river from the St. John River District Hospital in East China Township, Michigan.  The facility would also be about a mile upstream from East China Township’s drinking water intake system. 

Shell Canada’s proposed refinery is to include crude oil processing facilities, tank farms and storage facilities, a new electricity generation plant, hazardous waste management facilities, a massive petroleum coke storage facility, and a large new dock to help service 870 ships carrying petroleum products for Shell each year.  With the new refinery, Shell would be responsible for generating 12% of the total annual shipping traffic in this area of the St. Clair River. 

“This project has been in the works since 2006.  I only found out about it through a meeting with a women’s water protection group from Walpole Island First Nation a few weeks ago.   This women’s group called Akii Kwe, or keepers of the water, has helped me understand how the Canadian environmental assessment process works and they are encouraging everyone with an interest in this project to write letters and send emails asking Canada to make the environmental assessment an independent panel study,” said Doug Martz, spokesperson for Channelkeeper.    

“We don’t necessarily oppose the project, but we want to make sure that there is consultation with the people of Michigan and we want to make sure that our concerns and issues are dealt with during the environmental assessment process.  An independent panel study could also include representation from Michigan and from First Nations, and that would go a long way toward making sure Canada pays  attention to everyone’s concerns about this river.  The deadline for sending emails and letters requesting an independent panel study is May 26th, so we have to act fast,” said Martz. 

Shell’s draft environmental assessment report is not available at locations in Michigan, but it is available at the public library on Walpole Island across from Algonac.  The report mistakenly states as fact that the  closest drinking water intake to the proposed refinery is about 12 miles downstream at Walpole Island and uses this information to help reach the conclusion that there will be minor health impacts.  The report contains no information about downstream Michigan drinking water intakes at East China, Marine City and Algonac.  The record of consultation that accompanies the report provides no record of meetings with Michigan residents or elected officials in communities along the St. Clair River.

“This project is heading for approval without review, planning and consultation with the people who live directly across the river in Michigan,” said Martz. “Unless we can get a independent panel review from the Canadian government in Ottawa, Shell Canada will continue to ignore us and we may end up dealing with additional air and water pollution and the on-going threats of spills and refinery malfunctions without anyone having listened to our concerns or being a good neighbour and taking the time try to plan this project with us.  It’s just common courtesy to talk with your neighbours.  We all need to send emails and write letters demanding that Canada conduct the environmental assessment as an independent panel study, with public hearings in Michigan and with Michigan representatives on the review panel,” he added.

The Aamjiwnaang First Nation community next door to Shell’s current refinery near Sarnia has been named “the most toxic site in North America” by the National Geographic Society.  Over the past years there have been hundreds of spills from Ontario’s Chemical Valley into the St. Clair River.  Area recreational fisheries, wildlife areas, shorelines and drinking water have been impacted.  A recent study for the medical journal Environmental Health reported that hospital admissions rates were significantly higher in ‘Chemical Valley’ as compared to both London and Windsor.  The authors hypothesize that these higher rates are pollution related and say that a critical look at “the way ambient air quality and other pollutants are monitored in this area is warranted. Further epidemiological research is needed to verify our preliminary indications of harmful effects in people living in ‘Chemical Valley’” 

Martz provides the following instructions to people who wish to send an email or write a letter requesting an independent panel study:  

• Send your emails and letters before May 26th, 2008 

• When you write, make sure you request a “Panel Study” environmental assessment 

• Identify your address 

• Say why you have an interest in seeing Michigan fully represented on the panel that conducts the environmental assessment for the proposed Shell refinery project on your river 

• Quote the project title “Proposed Refinery Development (Courtright Site), Shell Canada Products.”    

• Send your email or letter to: Transport Canada – Environment and Engineering, 4900 Younge Street, 4th Floor, Toronto, ON  M2N 6A5  Canada.  Fax: 1-416-952-0514  Email: [email protected] 

• Send copies of your letters and emails to:  

o Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Office of the Prime Minister, 80 Wellington Street, Ottawa, Ontario  K1A 0A2 Canada. Fax: 1-613-941-6900, E-mail: [email protected] 

o Premier Dalton McGuinty, Legislative Building, Queen’s Park, Toronto Ontario  M7A 1A1  Canada.  Fax: 1-416-325-3745.  Email: [email protected] 

o Governor Jennifer M. Granholm, PO Box 30013, Lansing, MI  48909.  Fax: 517-335-6863.  Email: D[email protected] 

o Congresswoman Candice Miller, Michigan’s 10th District, Shelby Township Office, 48653 Van Dyke Ave., Shelby Township, MI  48317.  Fax: 586-997-5013.  Email via her website at: 

o Your member of Congress and your member of the State Legislature 

o Your mayor 


For further information: Doug Martz, Spokesperson, St. Clair Channelkeeper – 586-764-2443 

About St. Clair Channelkeeper 

St. Clair Channelkeeper is a member of the New York-based Waterkeeper Alliance, led by Robert F. Kennedy Jr. Each Waterkeeper program is akin to an environmental neighbourhood watch program.  

Waterkeepers patrol their local water bodies in a boat, address community concerns, identify threats to clean water, and make use of the legal and democratic processes designed to protect water quality.  St. Clair Channelkeeper is a grassroots group that relies on the support and enthusiasm of individuals. 

About the Waterkeeper Alliance – 

Waterkeeper Alliance is the international center of a network of Waterkeeper programs. The Alliance approves new Waterkeeper programs, licenses the use of the Waterkeeper names, represents the individual Waterkeepers on issues of national interest, and serves as a meeting place for all the Waterkeepers to exchange information, strategy and know-how. The Alliance and its member Waterkeeper groups meet at least once a year, rotating between regions, and communicates regularly in the interim. and its also non-profit sister websites,,,,, and are all owned by John Donovan. There is also a Wikipedia article.

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