“Insanity is doing the same thing, over and over again, but expecting different results.”
― Albert Einstein
As Enbridge pushes plans to send dirty tar sands oil through its ‘Line 9’ pipeline in Ontario and Quebec this week, there is question we should we be asking ourselves.
We know the project means big risks for Ontario and Quebec, without much gain. So, why do it?
We haven’t learned anything when it comes to preventing environmental catastrophe. For once, let’s take a lesson from the recent past.
Back in July of 2010, an Enbridge oil pipeline ruptured, spraying oil into Michigan’s Kalamazoo River and creating one of the largest environmental disasters in the state’s history. Before Enbridge finally staunched the flow, the pressurized pipe had spilled over three million liters of diluted tar sands bitumen into the river, fouling it for 65 kilometers downstream.
Nearby, nearly 60%
of local residents got sick from the toxic fumes. In this video
, you can see local resident Susan Connelly
describing the serious health effects of the spill on her two children and her community of Marshall, Michigan.
The environment along the entire stretch of river has also been decimated
. Despite cleanup efforts, two years on local wildlife has yet to rebound as the river remains contaminated and off-limits for people.
The Kalamazoo spill wasn’t caused by some rare event like an earthquake or a freak explosion. It was caused simply by taking an aging pipeline designed to carry light crude oil, and filling it instead with hotter, more corrosive diluted tar sands bitumen and waiting. Pushing raw tar sands oil through pipelines is like moving hot, liquid sandpaper that grinds and burns its way along, increasing the chance that weakened pipelines will rupture.
In the life of an oil pipeline of this kind, it’s a near statistical certainty that there will be a spill of some kind.
Recent evidence shows that tar sands pipelines have spilled almost three times
as much crude oil per mile of pipeline when compared to the U.S. national average.
This spill was made worse, as pipeline spills often are, by the slow response
from its owners. By the time Enbridge discovered its pipe was leaking and shut it down, enough time had passed that a huge amount of oil was spilled. This situation hasn’t been improved upon.
Today, as public hearings into the ‘Line 9’ reversal project get underway in London, Ontario, we are seeing history repeat itself in slow motion. Line 9 crosses countless watersheds from Sarnia all the way to Montreal, threatening natural treasures like the Thames River, the Grand River, the Niagara Escarpment, Lake Erie, Lake Ontario, and Rouge Park.
Here we are again, forcing tar sands oil through exactly the same type of aging Enbridge pipe that wasn’t designed for it, betting against the odds, expecting different results.