Oil leak on massive pipeline pushing tar sands through the Great Lakes

Enbridge Energy has just reported that their Alberta Clipper tar sands pipeline is being shut down because they have spilled over 5000 gallons of oil. The spill happened in Saskatchewan, Canada, and it is not yet clear what has caused the leak. Enbridge has reported that the spill occurred at one of their pumping stations but some of the oil has sprayed onto nearby private property.

This latest spill is yet another example on why Enbridge should focus a lot more time on pipeline safety instead of rushing and pushing through massive amounts of pipeline expansion projects throughout Canada and the US.

In fact, Enbridge is currently trying to gain approval in both canada and the US to expand the Alberta Clipper pipeline. They want to increase pressure on this pipeline from 450,000 barrels per day to 880,000 barrels per day!

The Alberta Clipper tar sands pipeline is the beginning point for all the Enbridge expansions throughout the Great Lakes, which will make the largest freshwater system, in the world, a super highway for transporting and refining tar sands. Enbridge is even one of the companies behind the recent proposal to ship tar sands, via tankers, throughout the Great Lakes.

All of these expansions are being rushed through despite the fact that Enbridge still has no idea how to clean up tar sands and Enbridge definitely doesn’t want you to realize that US regulators, PHMSA, still has a corrective action order out on the Lakehead System, which is the entire pipeline system that transports tar sands throughout the Great Lakes. This corrective action order says:

The Original CAO noted that the history of failures on Respondent’s Lakehead Pipeline system, the defects originally discovered during construction of Line 14, a 2007 failure on Line 14, and the July 2010 failure on Line 6B in Marshall, Michigan, and additional failures throughout all parts of the Lakehead System indicate that Respondent’s integrity management program may be inadequate. PHMSA has communicated its longstanding concerns about this pattern of failures with Respondent over the past several years. Given the nature, circumstances, and gravity of this pattern of accidents, additional corrective measures are warranted.

Despite this unprecedented corrective action order, and several failures since, PHMSA is still allowing Enbridge to expand many pipelines along the Lakehead system, including a 60-year-old pipeline that runs under the Straits of Mackinac.

There are several easy online action tools that allow you to reach out to the decision makers behind these proposals. Please consider taking a few moments to fill these out to show your opposition to the major risk Enbridge continues to build in the Great Lakes.

Contact the Department of State and let them know that Enbridge should not be allowed to increase pressure on the Alberta Clipper pipeline. 

Also, please contact your US Senator and let them know that Enbridge should never be allowed to increase pressure on a 60-year-old pipeline that runs through the heart of the Great Lakes.

UPDATE: This spill has been confirmed to be heavy tar sands and Enbridge has restarted the pipeline. No information has been released regarding the cause of the leak. You can no view photos of the spill by JOHN W. MURRAY HERE.

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Citizens across the nation unite around protecting the Great Lakes from the Mackinac Pipeline

Citizens across the nation unite around protecting the Great Lakes from the Mackinac Pipeline

Over 4000 citizens, nationwide, have united to pressure our Great Lakes Senators to protect our waters from oil spills! After having a flood of concerned constituents reach out to their offices; Senators Levin, Stabenow and Durbin came together to issue a joint letter, to the federal agency that oversees pipeline safety, demanding more transparency. The Senators share concerns with Great Lakes residents questioning the expansion of a 60-year-old pipeline that runs under the Straits of Mackinac.

You can read the letter here, which highlights:

This pipeline is 60 years old and runs from Superior, Wisconsin to Sarnia, Ontario. It passes inland along environmentally sensitive areas and beneath the Straits of Mackinac, which PHMSA has identified as a “high consequence area.” The increase in oil transported adds pressure to the aging pipeline, which has undergone only a few upgrades since it was first installed in 1953. We are concerned that these changes could compromise the integrity of the pipeline. We are particularly concerned with the risks a leak or break in the pipe could pose to the Straits of Mackinac given this area’s strong currents, variable water temperatures, and connections to both Lake Michigan and Lake Huron.

I not only applaud the Senators for demanding more transparency from the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) and Enbridge, but I also want to thank all of our members and supports, at the National Wildlife Federation, for taking the time to reach out and express your personal concerns. In particular, this positive step would not have been possible without the support and leadership of the Chicago Wolfpack and the Michigan Wolfpack – a group of business and community leaders who work with the National Wildlife Federation and the Michigan League of Conservation Voters.

If you want to learn more about this pipeline, you can watch underwater pipeline footage NWF took this past summer. If you have not done so, it’s not too late to reach out to our Senators to thank them for their leadership and continue to ask for additional oversight on this issue. In addition, if you want to help support the work we are doing on this issue, please consider donating to the Great Lakes Regional Center of the National Wildlife Federation! We will keep you all posted on the outcome of this letter and additional opportunities to engage. Cheers!