A disaster in Michigan is a cautionary tale for residents of the Pacific Northwest, and anyone whose community is threatened by the self-interest of the fossil fuel industry:
Last July a pipeline owned and operated by Canadian oil company Enbridge burst and spilled an estimated 1 million gallons of tar sands crude into Michigan's Kalamazoo river. Within days it was crowned the largest oil spill in Midwestern history.
As Enbridge switched into damage control mode -- they've had practice, having caused 610 leaks between 1999 and 2008 -- CEO Pat Daniels made solemn promises to the cameras (see the video above) and company reps even went door to door promising that Enbridge would pay damages.
Now that the media's moved on, Enbridge is dropping the act and bringing in the lawyers: Attorneys representing Enbridge are reportedly gearing up to fight claims made by victims of the spill, claiming that the perpetually leaky company was not responsible because it had followed all relevant laws and regulations.
You can imagine how this feels to residents of these communities: "So what if your water is ruined, your community is fouled, and it took us 18 hours to lift a finger to stop the leak? We're a law-abiding company!"
There's no silver lining here -- communities along the Kalamazoo are damaged, health concerns are real, and justice may not be served.
But Enbridge's Michigan disaster should serve as a cautionary tale for US and Canadian residents on the West Coast, site of Enbridge's next big proposed leaky project: the Northern Gateway pipeline, which will run crude from Alberta's tar sands oil developments through to the Great Bear Rainforest on British Columbia's coast -- which I hear isn't far from the U.S. west coast -- while carrying the world's dirtiest oil to the Asian marketplace.
It's not a question of if there will be spills, it's a question of when. Enbridge can't safely run a pipeline in suburban Michigan -- it would be a foolish surrender to the destructive power of oil interests and give them entry into one of the most fragile and remote wilderness areas on the planet.
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