Alberta oil spill a reminder of the risks

Editor: Last month, Alberta suffered one of the largest oil spills in Canadian history, almost exactly five years after the tragic Enbridge spill in Kalamazoo, Mich.

The Alberta spill released the equivalent of 31,000 barrels — more than the 27,000 barrels of oil spilled at Kalamazoo.

Despite assurances by industry about state of the art spill detection technologies, Nexen’s “fail-safe” spill detection failed, for reasons still unknown.

B.C. communities along the route of Kinder Morgan’s TransMountain pipeline have valid reason for concern.

There is no “fail-safe” way to prevent oil spills, and furthermore, effective clean-up is impossible.

The Kalamazoo spill closed more than 40 km of river and destroyed over 60 km of wetlands.

Despite $1.21 billion spent on remediation, oil still remains in the riverbed.

About 45 homes were evacuated from Marshall, near the Kalamazoo spill, with residents suffering headaches, nausea, and vomiting due to off-gassing of carcinogenic benzene.

Not only are pipelines a direct health hazard, they threaten local economies.

A study by Conversations for Responsible Economic Development (CRED) showed homes directly impacted by oil spills face a 10 to 40 per cent decline in value, while area properties fell five to eight per cent.

And what do our communities really have to gain?

In B.C., oil and gas accounts for only three per cent of the economy — that’s 25,000 jobs as opposed to 127,000 in tourism, 14,000 in real estate and thousands more in fishing and aquaculture (according to CRED).

Are we prepared to trade these jobs for only 50 permanent pipeline jobs?

It’s time we learn from the experiences of communities that have suffered from oil spills. Kinder Morgan is gambling with our health, livelihoods and environment.

It happened in Kalamazoo. It happened in Northern Alberta. It can happen here.

Larissa Stendie,

Sierra Club Climate and

Energy Campaigner,