Just as the hearings for Enbridge’s Northern Gateway tar sands pipeline kicked off in Kitimat, B.C., the company found itself dealing with an unfortunately-timed accident. One of Enbridge’s natural gas pipelines – called Stingray ...
Just as the hearings for Enbridge’s Northern Gateway tar sands pipeline kicked off in Kitimat, B.C., the company found itself dealing with an unfortunately-timed accident. One of Enbridge’s natural gas pipelines – called Stingray – sprung a leak
about 100 km off the coast of Louisiana.
Talk about a headache. Enbridge is busy trying to convince First Nations communities, regulators and others along the proposed route for Northern Gateway that a leak is unlikely. If built, the pipeline would carry tar sands through pristine forests and across valuable salmon rivers, and an oil spill could devastate fisheries and water that communities rely on.
The problem is that yesterday’s Stingray leak wasn’t an anomaly. Spills are a disturbingly frequent occurrence along pipelines. Patrick Daniel, CEO of Enbridge, often touts concern about pipeline safety and claims that their objective is to have zero oil spills, but the numbers tell a different story. Between 1999 and 2009, Enbridge racked up 713 spills
, which equals more than one per week.
Many of the accidents had significant impacts. For example, in January 2001, Enbridge was responsible for 23,900 barrels
of oil leaking near Hardisty, Alberta, even though the company had been warned four months earlier that the site was a “high priority location.”
In April 2003, a gas explosion
leveled a strip mall in Etobicoke, Ontario and killed seven people. Also in 2003, almost a million litres of tar sands oil leaked from a burst pipeline in Minnesota. In order to stop the oil from entering the Mississippi River, Enbridge set the oil on fire,
creating a sulfuric black cloud a kilometre and a half high and eight kilometres wide. In November 2007, a pipeline exploded
in Minnesota, killing two workers and sending a fireball 30 metres into the air.
In many of these spills, Enbridge was either forewarned of a problem by regulators and failed to act or charged after the fact
Enbridge’s biggest oil spill over the last decade happened on July 25, 2010, when more than three million litres of oil gushed from a ruptured pipeline into the Kalamazoo River in Michigan near Battle Creek. While local residents were subjected to toxic fumes and rescue crews tried to clean off oil-soaked wildlife, Governor Jennifer Granholm called Enbridge’s response “anemic
” and residents and politicians accused the company of not acting quickly enough to contain the spill. Sixty percent
of local residents experienced health problems after the spill, and a year and a half later, the town is still dealing
with the impacts of the spill.
Yesterday’s leak was a reminder that spills happen. At stake in the decision facing the hearings is whether we’re willing to accept a spill in the Great Bear Rainforest, wild salmon rivers and coastline that supports a diverse array of ocean life and provides a livelihood for communities.