“It Can’t Happen Here”…But It Is Happening There

They say it can’t happen here, but it’s happening there.

Right now, highly toxic and environmentally devastating tar sands oil is leaking from underground wells at a tar sands oil extracting operation in Cold Lake, Alberta, Canada.

While that’s bad enough, here’s the real stunner: Tar Sands oil has been leaking non-stop from these underground wells since May, and officials still don’t know exactly where the leaks are coming from, how to stop them and how to clean up the damage that they have caused.

And, the company that owns the tar sands operation in Cold Lake, Canadian Natural Resources Limited (CRNL) has suggested that the oil could have started leaking even earlier than May, possibly as early as March.

As of July 19th, 26,000 barrels of bitumen (the main ingredient in tar sands oil) mixed with surface water had been cleaned up from the leak site, but the actual amount that has leaked into the environment could be much higher.

Documents show that about 68,000 pounds of oil-contaminated vegetation has been removed from the latest of the four spill zones, and the Alberta environment ministry has already confirmed that the spills have killed a number of animals.

But officials in Alberta will have to brace for more cleanup efforts, because CRNL not only doesn’t know how to stop the leaks, they don’t have a clue where the leaks are coming from.

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Meanwhile, back here in the U.S., the Obama administration is still deciding whether or not to give approval to the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, which would transport the very same type of highly corrosive and highly dangerous tar sands oil, from Alberta across the middle of our nation to the Gulf Coast region where it can be refined and exported.

The owners of the Keystone XL pipeline, TransCanada, have sworn that the pipeline will be completely safe, and will cause little to no environmental danger to the areas of the country that it would run through.

TransCanada has also made a point of saying that it’s agreed to 57 safety conditions suggested by pipeline safety regulators, which it says will make it safer than other oil pipelines.

While that sounds good for public relations, the reality is that those so-called safety conditions are the bare minimum standards that all pipeline operators must follow.

And, as TarSandsAction.org points out, TransCanada said that the Keystone 1 pipeline, the first phase of the greater Keystone XL project which went into effect in the summer 2010, would have at most one oil spill in seven years. It had 12 spills in just its first year of operation alone.

TransCanada’s miscalculation might have something to do with the fact that tar sands oil is much more dangerous to transport than conventional oil because it’s much more corrosive to the pipelines through which it travels through.

And, when those pipelines break, and the tar sands oil spills out, it’s nearly impossible to clean up.

Unlike regular oil that floats on the top of water when it spills, tar sands oil sinks to the bottom of the ocean, or deep into the soil if it’s on land, and as result, is far more destructive to the environment and harder to clean up.

Over the past decade, tar sands pipelines have had hundreds of ruptures, spilling more than a million gallons of tar sands oil that have devastated rivers, wetlands, drinking water reservoirs and wildlife.

Should the Keystone XL pipeline be given the green light by the Obama administration, it will cross through America’s heartland, over the source of fresh drinking water for 2 million Americans.

Tar sands oil is also one of the most carbon intensive forms of energy. Substituting tar sands oil for conventional oil increases global warming emissions by a staggering 20%.

Despite what TransCanada may say in its press releases and public relations campaigns, the Keystone XL pipeline is a disaster waiting to happening, and when that disaster does happen, it will make us long for the “good old days” of “normal” disasters like the BP Gulf oil spill. .

Dr. James Hansen, former director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, and one of America’s top climate scientists, has said that the extraction and use of tar sands oil is “essentially game over” for the climate.

We need to be taking the actions necessary to save our planet, not further destroy it.

Call your members of Congress, and tell them to urge the Obama administration to say no to the Keystone XL pipeline.