Posts Tagged ‘oil spill’


October 7, 2010

In the debate over the nation’s energy future, concern over an oil-fouled Great Lakes could tip the balance here.

We learned today of yet another oil spill, this time in Lake Huron and fouling about 300 yards of beach at the state park in Cheboygan, Michigan. We don’t yet know the source or even if it’s been completely stopped. Below is a news release from NWF’s Beth Wallace, who is coordinating NWF’s Great Lakes oil spill responses (and who would have thought we would need to do that every few weeks??). Coming on the heels of the Enbridge pipeline rupture, which spewed 1 million gallons of oil into the Kalamazoo River and its tributaries, isn’t it time to put our foot down and say, “Enough!!”?

Oil is a hazardous material. It’s toxic to people, to plants, to wildlife… to just about all living things. Yet right now we are forced to use it, to ship it, to pipe it, to keep our vehicles moving and our economy running. Even when shipping and piping it is hurting us, even when importing it brings us war and terrorism, even when the emissions it produces are warming the planet and mortgaging our children’s future.

What’s so frustrating is that there are much, much cleaner energy alternatives that would significantly reduce our reliance on oil. Solar, wind, geothermal energy; electric (and high mileage) vehicles; energy efficient (and money-saving) appliances; public transportation. We’re not going to stop using oil any time soon. But right away we can reduce oil consumption, reduce transport, reduce imports — and doing so will make our nation safer and healthier. Moving to clean energy would also bring Michigan some much–needed jobs in the process.

This latest spill is a wakeup call. Enough!


Enbridge Oil Spill Hearing: Words and Actions Don’t Match Up

September 21, 2010

What became clear during last week’s Congressional hearing in Washington is that the Enbridge oil spill didn’t have to happen at all — and if was to happen, it didn’t have to be nearly this bad. Enbridge’s own monitoring in 2009, 2007 and 2005 revealed weaknesses in the pipe near Marshall, but Enbridge did no repairs. Enbridge said the weaknesses did not meet the federal threshold for repairs, and so Enbridge did nothing.

Then, once the pipe ruptured, it took Enbridge 13 hours to shut down the pipeline. During most of that time, oil spewed from the gash in the pipe into Talmadge Creek and then the Kalamazoo River.

The last panel of the day had only one witness: Enbridge CEO Patrick Daniel. He started out saying that he has repeatedly apologized and continues to apologize about “the mess we made in Marshall, Michigan.” He said that the remediation is “well on its way.”

Then again, shortly before the Marshall pipeline rupture, Enbridge’s vice president told Congress that Enbridge has the capability to instantaneously shut down a pipeline as soon as there is a spill. That didn’t happen in Marshall. Instead, it took 13 hours to shut off the oil flow.

Congressman Oberstar took on CEO Daniel, comparing Enbridge’s statements with its actions. He clearly showed that based on its own words, Enbridge knew or should have known that the pipe near Marshall could rupture at any time. And he showed that Enbridge made it much worse by not responding right away to the spill.

Then Representative Schauer took on the pipeline company. First, the Congressman noted the 329 known anomalies in the 6B pipeline (the pipe running through Marshall) and the company’s request, 10 days before the rupture, to run at reduced capacity while it determined what to do.

Schauer asked why, if safety was paramount, did Enbridge ask to run at reduced capacity instead of just making the repairs. Daniel first said that Enbridge was working with PHMSA on that, and then when pressed by Schauer, admitted that PHMSA had not approved Enbridge’s request.

The Congressman asked, “when are you going to repair those defects?”

Daniel said that Enbridge is working on inspecting and repairing all of them, but not all at once. The Enbridge CEO couldn’t say when all of the anomalies be repaired, despite repeated questions from Rep. Schauer. Rep. Schauer said he has no confidence that Enbridge can operate the pipeline safely until all the repairs have been done. He’s asked the federal agency, PHMSA, to make sure that every single inch of pipeline is inspected and any weakness, especially the 329 defects, be repaired.

The Congressman queried Enbridge’s Daniel about the discovery and reporting of the event. Enbridge sent a worker to the site at 9:41 a.m. the morning of July 26 to check out reports and said he could smell nothing….. after all the 911 calls about fumes the past 12 hours. Daniel couldn’t explain that.

At Enbridge central operations, alarms indicating pressure drops and possibly leaks sounded and continued for 13 hours before Enbridge shut down the pipeline.  Daniel could not explain why it took so long.

Rep. Schauer then asked why Enbridge demanded medical record disclosures from people who asked for help with health care. Daniel said that wasn’t the intent of the forms. Schauer pointed out that that’s what the medical disclosure forms did, and asked Daniel if they were still being used. Daniel didn’t know.

Rep. Schauer pointed out that  Enbridge demanded a waiver of all future rights for payment for hotel room.

Daniel responded that the company processed hundreds of claims, and 36 had this waiver form. He said Enbridge has contacted all 36 people and said the form will be rescinded. The CEO did acknowledge that the form never should have been used. However, I wonder if Enbridge used the form for more than 36 claims; several of the Marshall residents who testified had been handed the form, and they hadn’t been contacted yet.

Representative Schauer wrapped up the hearing this way: “The words and the actions of your company haven’t matched up…. This is a community that’s been turned inside out….. How can you keep your promise to make sure this community is made whole?”

Of course, there’s no way that Enbridge can make the community whole. Enbridge is going to need to invest in that community for years, and even decades, to reverse most of the damage it’s done. But some of the damage simply isn’t reversible.

As the oil and gas pipeline infrastructure in this country ages, we will have more and more of these spills. Marshall showed us that it’s not just off-shore drilling that should worry us. We can keep on trying to clean up these messes, or we can move away from relying on dirty fuels. Which, by the way, has this incidental benefit of combating global warming.

That choice seems like a no-brainer. Maybe somebody should tell the folks in Congress who killed the energy/climate bill that comprehensive climate and energy legislation would have weaned us off of our dependence on oil.

Or better yet, maybe they should take a trip to Marshall and ask themselves if that’s what they’d like to see in their districts.

Michigan Oil Spill Hearing

September 14, 2010

It turns out the Beth Wallace, our Great Lakes oil spill response coordinator, and I will have the chance to testify at tomorrow’s hearing (September 15) on the Enbridge pipeline oil spill.

The hearing is before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee at 10 a.m. (although we probably won’t be on until later in the morning), and Congressman Mark Schauer is coordinating it. His district, in Marshall, Michigan, was heaviest hit by the spill. Beth and I will post on what happens tomorrow.

Stay tuned.

Dammit, It’s Happening Here

July 27, 2010

Oil spill in the Kalamazoo River | Photo from the National Wildlife Federation

We just heard that at least 877,000 gallons of oil has leaked from an oil pipeline into the Kalamazoo River in Marshall, Michigan.  

The oil has moved 16 miles downstream and has already killed fish; the fumes have forced some people to evacuate; wildlife is getting coated with oil; shorelines are getting fouled; and containment efforts have been hampered by the high flows in the river because of all the rain. A federal-state response team has swung into action. 

Meanwhile, the company owning the pipeline, Enbridge, Inc., couldn’t initially be reached for comment, other than to a message saying that it hoped it had not caused any “inconvenience” to the community. Since then the company has issued an apology. 

We just released the statement below. We’ll provide updates as we learn more.  

Pipeline Spews 845,000 Gallons of Oil into Michigan Waters, Threatening Great Lakes 

National Wildlife Federation: ‘Michigan has become another casualty to our country’s addiction to oil and dirty fuels.’ 

ANN ARBOR, MICH. (July 27, 2010)—A major oil spill has dumped a reported 845,000 gallons of oil into a creek that feeds into the Kalamazoo River, sparking a state of emergency in Kalamazoo County and sparking fears will not be able to contain the massive spill before it reaches Lake Michigan. 

Commenting on the oil spill, Danielle Korpalski, Midwest regional outreach coordinator for the National Wildlife Federation, said: 

“We never thought it would happen here. When people throughout Michigan responded to the Gulf oil spill with an outpouring of money, concern, and support for those who live on the Gulf, we never thought we would share that awful feeling of watching a massive oil slick flowing through our waters, coating our wildlife, killing fish, and fouling our coastline. We never thought we’d see evacuations in Michigan because of the fumes from an oil spill. And we never thought we’d see almost a million gallons of oil poised to flow into the Great Lakes. 

“But today, that’s exactly what we’re seeing. 

“Michigan has become another casualty to our country’s addiction to oil and dirty fuels. 

“This massive oil spill is a wake-up call that our nation’s energy policies are failing. 

“From the Gulf Coast to the Midwest, people are paying a steep price for a national energy policy that is addicted to dirty and dangerous fossil fuels—and the results can be seen in our backyards, in our communities and in our nation’s cherished waters and wild places. 

“This oil spill is only the latest evidence that the nation needs to move toward cleaner, safer sources of energy. It’s time to head in a new direction—one which holds the opportunity to make the energy technologies of the future while creating jobs, strengthening our national security, and improving our environment.”