Major Tar Sands Oil Pipeline Spill Adds to Doubts About Controversial Keystone XL Proposal

Major Tar Sands Oil Pipeline Spill Adds to Doubts About Controversial Keystone XL Proposal

For Immediate Release
May 5, 2011

Marty Cobenais, Indigenous Environmental Network, [email protected], 218-760-0284
Kelly Trout, Friends of the Earth, [email protected], 202-222-0722

Major Tar Sands Oil Pipeline Spill Adds to Doubts About Controversial Keystone XL Proposal

UPDATE: This news release has been slightly modified from the original version. While the pipeline that spilled carries tar sands oil, it also carries other kinds of oil, and it is unclear which kind of oil was released in this spill.

Today, tribes and environmental organizations reiterated their call for the rejection of new tar sands oil pipelines following a major tar sands oil pipeline spill in Alberta, Canada. Last Friday, a pipeline owned by Plains All American spilled over one million gallons of oil in the Peace Region of Northern Alberta.

The massive spill—larger even than the tar sands oil pipeline rupture that polluted Michigan’s Kalamazoo River last summer—reinforced public concerns over the growing use of tar sands oil in the U.S. and, in particular, about the controversial Keystone XL tar sands oil proposal. The Keystone XL project, proposed by Alberta-based TransCanada Pipelines, would stretch 1,700 miles from Canada across the American Midwest to Texas and is currently under review by the Obama administration.

“Pipelines are not safe,” stated Sac & Fox Principal Chief George Thurman, headquartered in Stroud, Oklahoma. “These leaks in Canada only verify our concerns with the proposed Keystone XL pipeline. We must protect the water, air, land and our significant cultural and historical sites for future generations, therefore, the Sac & Fox Business Committee stands opposed to construction of the Keystone XL pipeline.”

In the U.S., tar sands oil pipelines have come under increasing scrutiny in the last year. The proposed Keystone XL pipeline has drawn opposition from a wide range of U.S. officials, including Nebraska Senator Mike Johanns (R). Nebraska’s Ogallala Aquifer, a source of water for many of the nation’s farms, could be polluted by spills from the Keystone XL pipeline.

“These tar sands oil pipelines have been found to have serious safety risks,” said Marty Cobenais, pipeline organizer with the Indigenous Environmental Network, citing a recent report by the Pipeline Safety Trust and Natural Resources Defense Council. “This report concluded that Alberta’s pipeline system, which mostly carries tar sands oil, has had 16 times more spills from internal corrosion than the conventional crude pipelines that are in the U.S.,” Cobenais added.

A week earlier, the Trans Mountain pipeline in Alberta was shut down following a spill. A pin-sized hole in the pipeline released an unknown amount of oil into the ground and a nearby creek before being discovered by local landowners.

Last summer, a tar sands oil pipeline spilled nearly one million gallons of oil into Michigan’s Kalamazoo River, the largest oil spill in Midwest history. Nearly a year later, the impacts are still being felt and the EPA announced that a 30-mile section of the river will be closed to the public for this summer.

“Tar sands oil pipelines are simply not safe,” said Alex Moore, dirty fuels campaigner at Friends of the Earth. “The Peace Region spill once again shows the costs of our continued oil addiction. We should choose healthy children, clean water, and a strong clean energy economy over dangerous pipelines like the Keystone XL.”

The Keystone XL pipeline is currently undergoing a second round of environmental review and a public comment period is open through June 6.


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