Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Kalamazoo Tar Sands Oil Spill Anniversary Sparks Actions Nationwide

Energy
Kalamazoo Tar Sands Oil Spill Anniversary Sparks Actions Nationwide

Natural Resources Defense Council

and

350.org

Photo courtesy of TarSandsBlockade.org

Two years ago today, a tar sands pipeline operated by Enbridge Inc. dumped approximately 1.2 million gallons of raw tar sands, or diluted bitumen (dilbit), into a wetland that overflowed into Michigan’s Kalamazoo River, contaminating nearly 40 miles of the watershed. The spill, which is still being cleaned up today, was the largest and costliest spill in Midwest history.

In the week surrounding the anniversary, citizens across North America are standing in solidarity with their neighbors affected by the Kalamazoo River spill and telling companies, like Enbridge and TransCanada, “We don’t want your dirty tar sands.” The planned actions by local groups will call attention to at-risk communities along the network of existing and proposed tar sands pipeline routes. The geographical diversity brings home the message that a spill like the one in Michigan could occur anywhere.

Susan Connolly, who was directly impacted by the Enbridge spill, is taking part in the Kalamazoo River Walk and had this to say, “My family was directly impacted by the spill. The toxic fumes gave us rashes, nausea and headaches. By taking a stand against tar sands we are fighting for people’s rights and health.” Connolly continued, “Our River will never fully recover, but we can educate the country about the dangers of tar sands and the disastrous impact this type of spill can have so the same thing doesn’t happen to you.”

The nature of diluted tar sands bitumen made the Kalamazoo spill even more devastating than a conventional oil spill. When this toxic, corrosive substance leaks from pipelines, the chemicals separate and the bitumen sinks in water. Tar sands pipelines also operate under high pressure which increases the volume of spills such as in the case with the Kalamazoo tar sands spill.

Diluted bitumen is already worse than conventional crude on its own, but the threat is compounded by the poor safety standards upheld by pipeline operators, as a recent damning report by the United States’ National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) pointed out. NTSB Chair Deborah Hersman said, “Learning about Enbridge's poor handling of the rupture, you can't help but think of the Keystone Kops, referring to the incompetent policemen in silent films. Why didn't they recognize what was happening? What took so long?" On July 23, National Wildlife Federation released a report, Importing Disaster: The Anatomy of Enbridge’s Once and Future Oil Spills, profiling just how deep the culture of carelessness runs at Enbridge.

Still, powerful companies like Enbridge and TransCanada are drawing up plans to introduce or increase the volume of tar sands through communities in the Pacific Northwest, the Gulf Coast, New England, Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia. And where there are existing pipelines in Canada and the U.S. Midwest, communities are growing concerned about pipeline spills and proposals to bring even more tar sands through their community.

“Increased capacity for tar sands oil is not what we need in the face of dangerous climate change. Tar sands does not fit in the new energy economy and is the wrong direction for America,” said Anthony Swift, an attorney for NRDC’s International Program. “The proliferation of tar sands pipeline projects only means more chances of toxic tar sands oil spills happening more frequently and we certainly don’t want a bunch of bumbling ‘Keystone Kops’ in charge of keeping our drinking water clean.”

More than 24 We Are the Kalamazoo are being held across North America throughout the week, including the kick-off “human oil spill” at the state capitol in Lansing, Mich. that took place on July 18 and a Tar Sands Blockade demonstration coinciding with President Obama’s recent visit to Austin, Texas. Other human oil spills, actions and demonstrations will be held in Vermont, Maine, Delaware, Montana, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Washington state, and Wisconsin in the U.S. and Quebec, British Columbia, and Ontario in Canada, among others.

Activists will also commemorate the anniversary of the Kalamazoo spill at a rally at the annual Conference of New England Governors and Eastern Canadian Premiers to oppose tar sands expansion in Burlington, Vt. starting on July 29. Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org, will be on hand to fight proposed tar sands pipelines in the northeast.

To learn more about We Are the Kalamazoo visit the website and join us for a telepresser today:

We Are the Kalamazoo Enbridge Spill Anniversary Telepresser
Wednesday, July 25, 2012
1 p.m. EDT/10 a.m. PDT
Dial-in:  866-939-3921

Speakers:
Deb Miller, Michigan business owner
Nikki Skuce, Forest Ethics (Canada)
David Stember, 350.org Vermont
Anthony Swift, NRDC

Visit EcoWatch's ENERGY page for more related news on this topic.

 

A seagull flies in front of the Rampion offshore wind farm in the United Kingdom. Neil / CC BY 2.0

By Tara Lohan

A key part of the United States' clean energy transition has started to take shape, but you may need to squint to see it. About 2,000 wind turbines could be built far offshore, in federal waters off the Atlantic Coast, in the next 10 years. And more are expected.

Read More Show Less

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

By Frank La Sorte and Kyle Horton

Millions of birds travel between their breeding and wintering grounds during spring and autumn migration, creating one of the greatest spectacles of the natural world. These journeys often span incredible distances. For example, the Blackpoll warbler, which weighs less than half an ounce, may travel up to 1,500 miles between its nesting grounds in Canada and its wintering grounds in the Caribbean and South America.

Read More Show Less

Trending

Kevin Maillefer / Unsplash

By Lynne Peeples

Editor's note: This story is part of a nine-month investigation of drinking water contamination across the U.S. The series is supported by funding from the Park Foundation and Water Foundation. Read the launch story, "Thirsting for Solutions," here.

In late September 2020, officials in Wrangell, Alaska, warned residents who were elderly, pregnant or had health problems to avoid drinking the city's tap water — unless they could filter it on their own.

Read More Show Less
Eat Just's cell-based chicken nugget is now served at Singapore restaurant 1880. Eat Just, Inc.

At a time of impending global food scarcity, cell-based meats and seafood have been heralded as the future of food.

Read More Show Less
New Zealand sea lions are an endangered species and one of the rarest species of sea lions in the world. Art Wolfe / Photodisc / Getty Images

One city in New Zealand knows what its priorities are.

Dunedin, the second largest city on New Zealand's South Island, has closed a popular road to protect a mother sea lion and her pup, The Guardian reported.

Read More Show Less