Oil Spills — There is Damage That Cannot Be Undone

This past weekend’s New York Times article on the environmental, social, psychological, and financial costs of oil spills is a sobering reminder of the vast toll on people and planet when oil spills occur. As President Obama considers whether or not to approve the dirty tar sands Keystone XL pipeline, the lessons of recent heavy, Canadian crude oil disasters are grounds enough for saying no.

After three years of clean-up, the Enbridge Energy spill in the Kalamazoo River and Talmadge Creek in Michigan is still not complete. The spill is the company’s largest. Enbridge believes that clean-up costs will approach $1 billion. The long clean-up time and staggering costs are not surprising if you consider that the more than 840,000 gallons of oil released were heavy crude that is extra difficult to clean up. As reported in the Times article, “The (Environmental Protection Agency) estimated that 180,000 had most likely drifted to the bottom, more than 100 times Enbridge’s projection.”

And more recently this past spring in Arkansas, an ExxonMobil spill of heavy, Canadian crude oil dumped approximately 210,000 gallons in a residential neighborhood. Residents, the State of Arkansas, and the Justice Department are all involved in litigation against ExxonMobil for damages.

Why would take on additional oil spill risks with heavy Canadian crude when we cannot cope with existing spills? The contamination of the natural environment endures, and as one affected resident in Michigan summed it up,” There are not enough zeros to pay us for what we’ve been through.”

President Obama, your new climate commitments demand a rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline now.

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