Archived Story

Citizens urged to oppose proposed pipeline

Published 10:46pm Tuesday, September 27, 2011

A National Wildlife Federation official urged Niles area residents Tuesday to write their legislators telling them to pass pipeline safety legislation and oppose the construction of the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline.
Beth Wallace, who works in the Great Lakes Regional Center, gave a presentation at the Greater Niles Senior Center during the League of Women Voters of Berrien and Cass Counties-sponsored event about recent area oil spills and plans to build a 1,900-mile pipeline to carry tar sands crude oil from Alberta to Texas.
Wallace pointed to oil spills in southwest Michigan — last year’s 860,000-gallon Enbridge debacle in Marshall and a lesser publicized spill in Constantine in June 2010 — as reason enough for pipeline safety legislation.
“I was planning to go to the Gulf (after the BP spill) until the Enbridge spill,” Wallace said. “Unfortunately, we had it become very real here. It was one of the largest inland spills in Midwest history.”
Wallace said one of the most frustrating aspects of the situation is that the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), which regulates pipelines in the U.S., doesn’t require pipeline owners to disclose the type of oil that they transport.
So when the Enbridge Kalamazoo River spill took place, no one knew that they were dealing with tar sands crude oil rather than conventional crude oil.
Wallace said tar sands crude oil is “more abrasive, toxic and corrosive,” increasing the chances for leaks. What caused the Kalamazoo oil spill is still under investigation by PHMSA, though.
Wallace said reports show that 60 percent of residents near the river reported health complications that were linked to the spill and about 4,000 animals were impacted.
“It’s going to impact the community for a long time,” she said.
U.S. Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., who chairs the Energy and Commerce Committee, has supported pipeline safety legislation that would require automatic or remote controls to shut off leaking pipelines and better leak detection technology, among other regulations.
But what puzzles Wallace is Upton also supports the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. He argues that it will create more than 100,000 jobs and will decrease dependance on oil from overseas.
Wallace refutes Upton’s claims, arguing that the effort would create much fewer jobs than that estimate. She also said most of the oil transported to the U.S. via the Keystone pipeline would be exported.
“I’m frustrated that congressional leaders who have gone through a spill would support this so we can create a couple jobs,” Wallace said.
Wallace also pointed out that the Keystone 1 pipeline has had 12 spills in its first year of operation.
State Sen. John Proos, R-St. Joseph, also supports the pipeline, voting for a resolution urging the U.S. Congress to approve its construction.
“Southwest Michigan families, job providers and schools continue to struggle with high gas prices. We would like to move toward more sustainable energy sources, but we still have a need for oil,” Proos said in a statement earlier this month. “My resolution urges the federal government to energize our economy and create jobs by looking to our Canadian friends to help reduce gas prices.”
Wallace encouraged the more than 50 people in attendance to contact congressional leaders about the issue and to form coalitions or groups dedicated to raising awareness about the dangers of the proposed pipeline.

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