Michigan breach causes ripples in Northwest

The breach of Enbridge’s 6B pipeline from Griffith, Ind., to Sarnia, Ontario has also released a deluge of negative responses related to the Northern Gateway Project.

Enbridge Northern Gateway spokesperson Alan Roth estimates 19, 500 barrels of crude oil escaped an Enbridge pipeline in Michigan, July 27.
Echoing the press conference statement of Pat Daniel, Enbridge president and CEO, Roth promised, “Enbridge are committing to clean up anything and everything that that oil has touched along the way.”

Responding to news of the leak, Skeena-Bulkley Valley MP Nathan Cullen made statements on Twitter, Greenpeace activists occupied Enbridge’s Vancouver offices, Friends of Wild Salmon issued a statement identifying rivers which may be threatened, CUPE sent a letter on behalf of its membership to the premier requesting Campbell oppose the Northern Gateway Plan and the BC provincial NDP made a statement claiming the Northern Gateway Project would put BC at risk.

The ruptured line is part of the Lakehead System which serves refining centers in the Great Lakes, Midwest and Ontario.

The 30 inch 6B pipeline is a different size than either of the proposed pipelines which would be part of the Northern Gateway project.

Due to the difference in size and other design parameters, Roth could not predict how much oil or condensate might leak from a similar breach in the pipelines of the Northern Gateway project.

Roth says pipeline technology has changed tremendously over the years since the 6B pipeline was laid in 1969, and cites a 2004 National Energy Board report which records no ruptures on pipelines less than 12 years old.

As of July 30, the cause of the breach was unknown, and was still under investigation.

The damaged pipe will have to be excavated for inspection to determine the cause of the breach.

Clean up efforts have been focused on preventing oil from entering Lake Michigan using booms and skimming technology.

High water levels on the Kalamazoo River have made containment of the spill challenging.

The US EPA is in charge of clean up and containment efforts, the EPA has created lines of authority for other federal and state officials, and named itself the On-Scene Coordinator.

The EPA has also requested the US Coast Guard make available $2 million for spill response.

Roth explains, “Enbridge is spearheading the clean up as part of the unified command.”

Roth says Enbridge will “redouble its efforts” to make sure the area is cleaned and restored.

CN, on its website, suggests it could move tar sands oil via rail as a “PipelineOnRail”.

They purport “PipelineOnRail” economic and environmentally responsible.

CN has existing rail-line from Alberta’s oil fields to Kitimat.

Kelli Svendsen, a CN spokesperson, says although they are, “not currently moving bitumen to the US or West Coast, we continue to work with all interested stakeholders.”

Because the CN rail-line is already in place, moving crude oil would not require environmental review.

Svendsen is “optimistic that rail will play a role in transporting all petroleum products.”

Defending the Northern Gateway Project, Roth said, “pipelines have been proven to be the the safest way to transport, more than by rail or highway.”

Greenpeace’s occupation of Enbridge’s Vancouver offices July 28 ended when police rushed in.

The occupation included a simulated oil spill and graffiti painted on glass using oil from the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Cullen said in his released statement, “Enbridge has been mailing out glossy pamphlets claiming that their technology is so good nothing can go wrong.”
“However,” his statement continues, “the major spill in Michigan is just the latest in a trail of leaks that has people questioning their promises.”

On Twitter Cullen said, “Enbridge’s Michigan pipeline spill raises some serious doubts about their safety promises to British Columbians.”

Besides the Kitimat River, Friends of Wild Salmon say a spill from the Northern Gateway Project would also expose the Stewart, Salmon, the Morice and the Copper Rivers to possible damage.

Arguing the Northern Gateway Project may lead to increased greenhouse gas emissions, CUPE suggests provincial support for the project contradicts 2009 Throne Speech, “if the pipeline goes ahead, it will be an incentive for increased tar sands production, thereby increasing harmful greenhouse gas emissions.”

Aug 31 the Northern Gateway Project Joint Review Panel will be at Riverlodge in Kitimat for oral comments on the Enbridge submission.

People interested in commenting must register by August 18, by fax or mail.

The Northern Gateway project proposes two 1,172km pipelines, one to send crude oil from Alberta tar sands via Bruderheim, Alberta to Kitimat and another to send condensate from Kitimat to Alberta processing facilities.

The Northern Gateway Project also includes a marine terminal to ship the oil to worldwide markets.

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