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Oil spill in Michigan — new pipeline here?

Now it’s Canada geese that are covered in oil, and Michigan fish that are dying en masse.  And it’s 80 miles from Lake Michigan, and at this point it’s headed this way.

Meanwhile, the same energy company whose pipelines have ruptured in Michigan and Wisconsin is building a pipeline through central Illinois.

Some features of the oil spill on the Kalamazzo River are familiar – the company minimizing the scope of the disaster, the CEO declaring “significant progress” in cleaning it up, the charges of inadequate response, the news that warnings of corrosion were ignored and that inspection records are “spotty at best.”

This time, though, it’s also part of the desperate drive to profit from Canadian tar sands oil, with potential costs to the Midwest that are significant.

We noted a number of problems with the tar sands project last year – ammonia and mercury-laden sludge to be dumped in Lake Michigan (by BP) in order to refine the stuff; the threat to central Illinois farmland from a pipeline transporting it to the Gulf of Mexico; and of course the strip mining of Canada’s ancient, pristine boreal forests, one of the great carbon storehouses on the planet. (Read Naomi Klein’s description of the devastation involved in extracting oil crude from tar sands.)

Now add oil spills to the list.  Tim Martin of AP lists several spills at Enbridge Energy pipelines in Wisconsin in recent years.  The company paid a $1.1 million fine last year to settle charges that it violated state permits protecting wetlands and waterways.  Phil Mattera has a detailed rundown of the company’s environmental record at Dirt Diggers Digest.

Enbridge, the same company responsible for the Kalamazoo spill, is now pressing to build a pipeline through central Illinois to move tar sand crude to shipping points.  Kari Lydersen wrote about it in 2008.

It’s part of a partnership to develop a pipeline system to get Canadian crude to the Gulf.  The partners are Enbridge and BP Pipelines, Inc.

In May 2009, the Illinois Commerce Commission approved the Enbridge proposal, over the objections of local farmers.  It postponed action on a staff recommendation that Enbridge be granted the power of eminent domain.

When a federal judge ruled in favor of the company’s easement claims earlier this year, an attorney representing landowners vowed to appeal.

One observer predicts that oil spills will become more frequent as we increasingly tap hard-to-reach oil sources and transport it much greater distances.  That doesn’t sound like tar sands oil is part of the solution.

More at Tar Sands Watch.

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Category: energy, environment

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