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NEWS: Tar sands pipelines threaten the Great Lakes

The Capital News Service in Michigan reports that, “Plans to increase the import of a raw form of oil piped from Canada through the Midwest are worrying environment groups that say the trend could pose health and environmental dangers in the Great Lakes Basin. A new report (by the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Sierra Club, the National Wildlife Federation, and the Pipeline Safety Trust) highlights what the groups say are escalating risks of major pipeline spills of the oil, which is a potentially unstable blend of bitumen and natural gas. …The environmental groups called for a re-assessment of pipelines along heavily populated and environmentally sensitive areas in the Great Lakes Basin and said (US) federal regulators should inspect pipelines instead of oil company inspectors.”

“Pipelines that sometimes carry the oil run through the Great Lakes region close to lakes Superior, Michigan, Huron and Erie. The pipelines also run under the St. Clair River, which drains into lakes St. Clair and Erie and the Detroit River. …Without any changes in safety standards, diluted bitumen imports to the U.S. increased almost five fold in 2010, according to the report. In addition, Canadian tar sands producers plan to triple the amount in the next eight years.”

“Rita Chapman, director of Sierra Club’s clean water program in Michigan, said increased imports of the oils is hazardous to the Great Lakes, a critical source of drinking water for more than 33 million people. …Chapman also said that the public could face something similar to the Gulf oil disaster if a pipeline bursts near one of the Great Lakes. ‘We have to change the standards of oil transportation, especially around the Great Lakes, to prevent an incident similar to that of the Kalamazoo River,’ said Beth Wallace, the community outreach regional coordinator at the National Wildlife Federation’s, Great Lakes Regional Center in Ann Arbor. Last year, a ruptured pipeline operated by Enbridge Energy Partners spilled more than 800,000 gallons of oil into a creek that drain into the Kalamazoo River. Enbridge Energy is a subsidiary of Canada’s Enbridge Inc.”

An August 2010 campaign blog – UPDATE: Pipelines threaten the Great Lakes – highlights a Canadian Press news report that, “The potential for pipeline failure poses a threat to the Great Lakes that could have wide-ranging economic and ecological consequences, says a key international body. The International Joint Commission says lax monitoring procedures, inaccurate spill detection and poor cross-border communication and co-operation leave the system providing water for 40 million people vulnerable to spills of chemicals like crude oil.”

An op-ed in the Toronto Star in September 2010 warned that, “There is already a vast network of pipeline extensions and proposed extensions leading from Fort McMurray (the oil sands region) to refineries at the tips of lakes Superior, Michigan and Erie.” An October 2008 Canwest News Service article reported that, “There are currently 17 refinery projects either being ‘considered, planned, applied for, approved or developed’ around the Great Lakes, according to a report (commissioned by the University of Toronto’s Munk Centre)…”

The news article is at http://greatlakesecho.org/2011/02/23/corrosive-canadian-oil-raises-pipeline-concerns-in-great-lakes-region/. The blogs are at http://canadians.org/campaignblog/?p=4441 and http://canadians.org/campaignblog/?p=4539.