Spilling outright lies | The Jackal

19 Nov 2011

Spilling outright lies

Is it policy to minimize an oil spill by lying about its quantity? That seems to be the case in the Michigan oil spill that started releasing hundreds of thousands of gallons of crude oil into Talmadge Creek, a waterway that feeds the Kalamazoo River.

On July 26 2010, the 30" 6B Lakehead oil pipeline belonging to Enbridge Energy Partners LP burst, with company officials saying 819,000 gallons of crude oil was spilled. But this figure has now been questioned by the Environmental Protection Agency.

The EPA recently released figures showing a total of 1,139,569 gallons of oil had been recovered in the ongoing cleanup effort, showing that the company responsible lied about the amount of oil spilled.

On 30 July 2010 U.S. Rep. Democrat Mark Schauer, proposed a bill to speed response times to pipeline disasters and more than double fines for companies slow to report them. The bill would raise fines from $100,000 to $250,000 on companies that wait more than an hour to report a leak. Repeat offenders could be fined up to $2.5 million.

The bill also called for a public, searchable Internet database of all reportable incidents involving gas or hazardous liquid pipelines. However there has been little progress on this.

"I am deeply concerned about the effects of the oil spill near Marshall, including the environmental impact and the disruption to residents and businesses," Michigan Sen. Carl Levin said in a statement at the time of the Enbridge oil spill.

The problem with pollution from last year's Enbridge oil spill in southern Michigan isn't about what is seen but what isn't seen, EPA officials said. Crude oil has a tendency to sink in water and has been found buried into the sediment of affected waterways.

It is clear that the oil and gas industry tries to minimize negative public perception and financial liability by falsely reporting the amount of oil spilled. It is much the same with fracking, with continued spills showing that self regulation and weak administration has failed to ensure environmental safety.

"The horrific pictures coming in of the oil spill underscore just how imperative it is for Michigan to move toward clean, safe energy sources like wind and solar instead of relying on outdated fuels like oil," Clean Water Action Michigan Director Cyndi Roper told the Gazette. "Sticking with outdated fuel will only hurt job growth and continue to harm the health and safety of our communities."

Such an example should raise further questions when there's a spill at sea and corexit is utilized to make the oil sink to the ocean floor, like what happened in the Rena oil spill of 5 October 2011.

Thankfully the Green party of Aotearoa look set to be able to make some changes that could ensure higher standards are met. Yesterday, they announced their 5-point plan for oil spills:

The policy also included holding an independent inquiry into the speed of the response to the Rena’s grounding, a moratorium on deep sea oil drilling and exploration, a legal safeguard preventing taxpayer liability in spills and more funding for Maritime New Zealand, the small state agency which has borne the brunt of the response.