On Friday, I went to the site of the latest oil spill to hit Alberta. What I saw was an area decimated by oil. Everywhere I went along the Red Deer river were huge oil plumes, and oil covered sheens. The smell in the air was noticeably toxic and the spill's damage went on for kilometres.
Some 160,000 to 480,000 litres of oil spilled from Plains Midstream Canada’s pipeline. The spill wasn’t detected by the company, but was instead located by local residents who were troubled by the noxious fumes. The oil spilled into the Jackson Creek and then quickly made it’s way into the Red Deer River. The river -- in addition to being one of the main waterways in Alberta – is also the drinking water supply for the City of Red Deer, a city of over 91,000 people.
The damage of the spill on the natural environment is still being determined but already fish and animals like beaver have been reported as heavily oiled. The impact will likely be felt for years.
Alberta’s Premier Alison Redford called the spill "an exception." This, despite the fact that the same company had another major spill just over a year ago, one of the largest in Alberta’s history and the subject of the photo essay of Greenpeace Campaigner Melina Laboucan-Massimo. "An exception" even though less than a month ago Alberta had another spill by Pace Oil and Gas Ltd. and "an exception" even though in 2010, there were 687 failures, the majority of them leaks in Alberta, which resulted in 3,416 cubic metres of spilled hydrocarbons. In most cases, the cause was internal or external corrosion or construction damage.
Alberta’s Premier said that while the spill was unfortunate, Alberta had an "internationally recognized" and "strong regulatory framework." Take a look at some of the pictures of this spill and you be the judge of how strong Alberta’s regulatory framework is.
Right now the federal government is seeking to gut Canada’s environmental legislation in Bill C-38 and to "streamline" the approval of major energy projects like pipelines. If they are successful we are almost assured that spills like this will become a more regular occurrence.
When it comes to pipelines the question is not if they will spill but when they will spill and create the next ecological disaster. That is why we are fighting so hard in Alberta and why we are working with groups, people and nations across the country to stop the Enbridge and Kinder Morgan tar sands pipelines from ever being built.
We hope that you’ll join us.