On Friday June 22, the Calgary based Merchant Law Group LLP served Plains Midstream Canada with a class action lawsuit for the oil spill near Sundre on June 7, 2012. In the Digital Journal article Oil spills into the Red Deer River amid monitoring controversy
posted on June 9, it describes how residents who live in the area of the oil spill were the first responders – not the federal and provincial governments or the company that caused this oil spill initially, Plains Midstream Canada.
It is presumed that this class action lawsuit will be won, citing the damage done to personal property, recreational areas, and the decline in value for these properties after the oil spill. Approximately 3,000 barrels of oil leaked from the Plains Midstream Canada’s Rangeland Pipeline first into Jackson Creek and the oil then spread into the Red Deer River, Gleniffer Lake and Reservoir.
On Monday, June 18, the second oil catastrophe this month occurred when 230,000 litres of crude oil leaked from Enbridge’s Athabasca line approximately 24 kilometers southeast of Elk Point and northeast of Edmonton, Alberta. This was a sizable oil spill that occurred at a 12-year-old pumping station in a field. Thankfully, the oil did not spew into lakes or rivers like the recent oil spill near Sundre. However, with the expansion taking place now and in the future here, the persistent question remains: how many oil spills will it take before the Alberta lakes, rivers, and aquifers that supply the high quality drinking water to residents are damaged permanently?
The cause of the Enbridge spill was a dysfunctional flange gasket. Now multiply these oil spills due to dysfunctional parts of pipelines, corrosive old pipelines, or unforeseen circumstances, through miles of wilderness and populated areas of BC if the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline gets installed. Then multiply these potential spills as oil is transported through the Keystone XL pipeline from northern Alberta, across prime farmland in the US Midwest and the Ogallala aquifer south to the Texas refineries.
If these oils spills can’t be contained now in Alberta, how will pipeline spills be contained across the vast land of BC and numerous US states? The reputation of Alberta is on the line if oil spills can’t be contained here let alone in another province or country. To top off the inadequate “high tech” monitoring and supposed efficient emergency response for these local oil spills, add potential terrorist activity to mix and you have a recipe for an ecological disaster and crippling lawsuits for the corporations that own these pipelines.
In this Globe and Mail article Spate of oil spills pushes Alberta to look harder at pipeline safety
, Premier of Alberta, Alison Redford, is “certainly not opposed to the idea” of a more comprehensive and thorough review of the pipeline safety. This examination is definitely needed in lieu of the recent sizable oil spills. If the pipeline safety is anything but a “world-class” regulatory system, then it will be a great detriment to Alberta and the oil industry if these high profile oil spills continue to occur with community residents being the first responders.
Danielle Smith, leader of the Opposition Wildrose Alliance, made a valid point in the Globe and Mail article that the “current process doesn’t avert spills but only responds to them.” Not enough safety mechanisms are in place. Furthermore, some critics strongly urge a more independent unbiased regulator be put in place to deal with pipeline inquiries when oil spills occur.
After the lengthy bickering of who is at fault for the continuous inadequate management of these oil spills and if nothing is done to make drastic changes after the projected Keystone XL pipeline and Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline approvals, the fallout will be: large sections of useless land in Canada and the US; paralyzed governments; broke corporations from lawsuits; increased rare diseases from chemically induced polluted water and soil; and starvation from an inability to grow food. “When the last tree is cut down, the last fish eaten, the last stream poisoned, you will realize that you cannot eat the money,” is a Native American saying worth remembering.
Until the time comes when all of our comforts and distractions are taken away, we won’t see, feel, or really understand the breadth of the Native American saying above, nor do enough in time to heal an ecologically damaged Earth that had previously given us so much. It’s time to question how we got to this tipping point in the first place.