Monday, August 9, 2010

Oil Under Us: Time for Vigilance

by Scott Hall

The oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and the recent million gallon spill from a ruptured pipeline in Michigan are reminders for us to keep the pressure on to prevent pipeline disasters here in northern Minnesota. We have at least six pipelines carrying crude oil and other oil byproducts from oil fields in northwest Canada across northern Minnesota. One of those pipeline routes is almost 60 years old. In the KAXE listening area the pipelines follow a route roughly parallel to U.S. Highway 2 between Clearbrook and Superior, Wisconsin.

Enbridge Energy owns and operates the pipelines. Enbridge is not an oil company, but a transportation company. Every day millions of gallons of crude oil flow under farm lands, bogs, lakes and streams here. Enbridge officials correctly point out that the pipelines carry this fuel more safely and cheaper than other modes of transportation.

The pipeline that ruptured in Michigan on July 26th is part of Enbridge's vast pipeline system. In a recent MinnPost article, Derek Wallbank reports on Enbridge's recent record of spills in Minnesota and Wisconsin. The oil spill in the Gulf revealed that the federal agency responsible for overseeing the safety of the offshore oil operations did not, to put it mildly, adequately oversee BP's operations.

Now we have to ask: is the agency responsible for overseeing Enbridge's operations, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), doing its job? MN 8th District Congressman, Jim Oberstar, chairs the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee in the House. He has scheduled a hearing on the Michigan oil spill and the safety of similar pipelines owned by Enbridge Inc., including nine in Minnesota. That hearing will be on Wednesday, September 15th.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for a timely and important article, Scott.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Scott. We must be vigilant. I remember several pipline failures 30 years ago. The company was required to check its lines then. When one looks over the stats from the last 30 years, it is obvious the results were lost on those same companies. Push for alternative energy.

91.7 KAXE said...

From Janet Moore:

Hmmm...the pipeline may be safer and less expensive than other means of transporting oil, but that doesn't mean it's SAFE! Between 1999 and 2008 alone Enbridge recorded 610 spills that released 132,000 barrels, or 5,544,000 gallons, of hydrocarbons into wetlands and waterways, not to mention cancerous bezene into the air. The new pipelines go right under Cass Lake!, part of the Mississippi watershed! It crosses a lot of sandy and gravelly country which readily allows leaching straight into the groundwater. This part of the country has some of the last and best reserves of fresh water in the world. With so many places in epic drought, we cannot afford to gamble with this resource. Additionally, the oil is coming from the tar sands region of Canada where extraction is poisoning native communities, wildlife, everything, there. There is currently a lawsuit filed by 4 Leech Lake tribal members against Enbridge. We must support them. It's never too late to change things, and obviously, we just need to get off oil. Thank you.