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By now most of us have heard about the proposed Keystone XL pipeline.
But how many of us know that tar sands is already being refined in US refineries?
Oil companies are bypassing the whole pipeline debate and bringing heavy crude in by rail. And for communities living along those railroads, crude by rail can be disastrous.
On July 6, 2013 an oil train derailed in Lac Meganitic, Quebec. All but one of the 73 cars was carrying oil, and five exploded. The death toll from this accident is still rising as authorities continue to find bodies in the “burned out ruins”. Read the rest of this entry »
This is a guest blog written by April Lane, a Bucket Brigade leader on the front lines in Arkansas.
On Friday March 29, 2013 an Exxon Mobile Pipeline ruptured sending oil some experts compare closely to tar sands oil through a subdivision in Mayflower, Ark. The pipeline blew at approximately 2 p.m. and was discovered by area residents soon after. The subdivision that sits right off of I-40, one of the busiest interstates in the state, never knew the pipeline was even there and it is just now being marked.This subdivision also sits just a creek and railroad track away from the Mayflower school. As the wave of oil made it through the subdivision it found a drainage ditch and then it hit the creek that runs down the side of the railroad tracks. It ran to a pipe that goes under the interstate and comes out on the other side into Lake Conway and a wildlife habitat.
Today, our Attorney General Dustin McDaniel toured the area and described the neighborhood where the spill originated as a scene out of the walking dead. I would say I think it is clear to everyone that has walked the streets and the various locations surrounding the lake that this is an event that not only will take months to clean up but will also have an impact on the town of Mayflower and the residents that will ripple outwards into the surrounding areas that will last much longer than anyone is currently addressing. However, the after-school sports practice involving 8 to 10 children practicing outdoors directly across the railroad tracks from where the spill occurred clearly emphasizes that appropriate measures to limit exposure to area residents are not yet being enforced to the fullest as to limit panic and further public outcry demanding answers and action.
Recently, there was a victory for environmentalists and anti-Tar Sands activists. Instead of letting the big oil companies push the permit through, President Obama and the State Department sent the Keystone Pipeline proposal back for a thorough independent re-review. Now, the Keystone Pipelineis back on President Obama’s desk for immediate decision. We sent a clear message to the White House so what’s next in the anti-tar sands movement?
While, Congress battledthis out in Washington, just like business as usual, Tar Sands oil IS already being refined in US refineries. Don’t be fooled. Just because the oil companies hit a snag in their fast-tracked plan to send 900,000 barrels of heavy crude DAILY from Canada all the way to Texas, doesn’t mean they weren’t successful in getting Tar Sands oil into places along the Canadian/US border, like Detroit, Whiting and Toledo.
Global Community Monitor has been working with communities living on the fencline of oil refineries for over ten years so it’s no surprise we were ready to go and jump started the campaign with a recent trip to Toledo, Ohio in order educate the local community about tar sands and how it will affect them locally. BP/Husky, located in Toledo, OH is slated for a $2.5 billion expansion, but has not made public a date and time when the tar sands expansion will happen.
Global Community Monitor’s Bucket Brigades have been launched in 27 countries, allowing residents to sample their own air to answer the question, ‘What’s in the air that we are breathing?’
Even if we do win, and the Keystone pipeline is defeated, we still need to work to stop tar sands oil from and to protect communities like Toledo, OH, Whiting, IN and Detroit, MI. Why should those communities live with the increased risk of reproductive harm, cancer and other diseases while the oil companies rake in big profits? These families are already overburdened with toxic emissions from the polluting refinery next door, it would be an extreme injustice to even think of expanding it to create even heavier toxic emissions.
Just days after hundreds were arrested in Washington D.C. for protesting the proposed Keystone pipeline, nearly a hundred people perished in a pipeline explosionin Nairobi, Kenya. What costs are we willing to tolerate?
Pipelines can be dangerous when poorly maintained. We saw that in San Bruno last year. Responsibility fell solely on PG&E for poor maintenance, yet PG&E is still trying to hold rate-payers accountable by hiking rates for upgrades needed to meet safety regulations. Although PG&E already made $10million in rate hikes in 2007 and 2009 designated to repair the exact pipeline which had already been identified as ‘high risk’. AND, currently, they are still positioned to turn a profit on the San Bruno pipeline explosion.
But, accidents like San Bruno are not isolated to one horrendously mismanaged energy company.
This environmental injustice and lack of safeguards plague low-income communities around the world. While residents from countless communities are fighting for their safety through stricter regulations, energy companies in North America are spearheading a new pipeline to run from Canada all the way to Texas in order to carry tar sands heavy crude. Does anyone think we are really moving in the right direction? How can we safeguard human health along pipeline routes, is it possible?
Have you ever smelled gas in your neighborhood? If so, you probably called the gas company to alert them. That is what we’re supposed to do, right? Then they’re supposed to send someone out to check the pipelines and make sure the area is safe. We have procedures in place to prevent a catastrophic disaster, right?
Turns out the procedure and safety measures we’ve been taught don’t really ensure our safety.
Prior to the San Bruno Explosion in Northern California on September 9, 2010, residents had been calling PG&E, the gas utility, for weeks to complain of potentially dangerous gas odors in the community. And the residents were right. It turns out this deadly explosion was caused by a ruptured natural gas pipeline that was 40-50 years old.
Since the majority of pipelines built before 1970 are steel, corrosion is a grim reality. According to a recent analysis by the Pipeline Safety Trust, a nonprofit advocacy group which was established following a 1999 explosion that killed three people in Bellingham, Washington, “Most of the older pipelines lack anticorrosion coatings that are prevalent in the industry today.”
Unfortunately, gas pipeline accidents aren’t as infrequent as one might think. According to the Associated Press, “Over the past two decades, federal officials tallied 2,840 significant gas pipeline accidents nationwide — including 992 in which someone was killed or required hospitalization… Those accidents killed 323 people and injured 1,372.”
And the problem is not limited to natural gas pipelines. We are also suffering from spills carrying crude oil. Read the rest of this entry »