Days after feds say Keystone XL pipeline would have no impact on rivers, pipeline spill devastates another river.

  • Published on June 9th, 2012

Last week the Army Corps of Engineers said the southern leg of the Keystone XL pipeline would likely move forward – because the pipeline would have minimal environmental impact on the scores of rivers it would cross.

Minimal impact.

Just days later, a similar Canadian pipeline burst on the Red Deer River of Alberta (the Canadian Province where the tar sands are). The spill has devastated one of the main waterways in Alberta.

Is this what we’ll be seeing 10 years from now in Texas? The Globe and Mail reports:

Gord Johnston grew up on the banks of the Red Deer River, at a place his family first settled in 1939. On Thursday evening, just before 7, he returned home to the nauseating smell of crude oil in the air.

alberta oil spill
Gord Johnston surveys the oil-soaked banks of the Red Deer River in Alberta following an oil leak, June 8, 2012. (Nathan VanderKlippe/The Globe and Mail)

Little more than an hour later he was in a helicopter, flying down one of Alberta’s principal waterways, where he saw a wide plume of oil flowing along the banks of a river that had already flooded its banks, running heavy with rainfed spring melt.

The oil, some 1,000 to 3,000 barrels of which spilled from a pipeline owned by Plains Midstream Canada, stretched nearly 10 kilometres up-river from Mr. Johnston’s 57 acres on the Red Deer River. As they flew in the helicopter, the source of the leak was obvious: “You could see it boiling up where the line crossing was,” Mr. Johnston said.

The oil was surging up into the river from below, where a pipeline owned by Plains Midstream Canada ran. That company, in an early press release, said the oil leaked into a creek leading into the river. Mr. Johnston saw differently. It was leaking from underneath the river itself.

In the following hours, he and his wife Bonnie would also see an oil-stained young beaver, a dead oil-covered whitefish and mats of grass and debris and brush and tree root covered in oil from the flooding river. As they battled headaches and nausea, and prepared to leave for a hotel — no oil company had yet contacted them to offer accommodations — they also faced a heartbreaking question: are their decades on the Red Deer over?

“How do you clean that up?” Mr. Johnston said, as he drove a reporter through his property, large portions of which are now stained with oil.

“My place is destroyed,” he said, as he prepared to abandon home, hoping that someone would offer security to protect it in his absence. “My whole life’s work is gone. I’ve pretty well lost it all here.”

Last year, it was a pipeline that ruptured on the Kalamazoo River in Michigan – they’re still cleaning up from that mess (See: True cost of Keystone XL: Staggering public costs vs private benefits). But I guess maybe the Army Corps of Engineers didn’t hear about that one. Maybe we should remind them.

Send this to the Army Corps of Engineers. Tell them an oil pipeline will have a massive environmental impact on America’s rivers. Tell them they can’t approve a pipeline unless and until they make damn sure the profits of the few aren’t going to come at the expense of devastation for the rest of us.

What you can do:

Write the Corps using the contact form at this website. Choose “Public Affairs” for recipient.

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About the Author

Jeremy Bloom is the Editor of RedGreenAndBlue. He lives in New York, where he combines his passion for the environment with his passion for film, and is working on making the world a better place.
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  • Hunter

    I served in Army and from my visual assessment of handling procedures for these types of projects, “there is high audit on compliance with procedure.” The pipeline will create more than 25,000 jobs! Red Deer River has no significance for historical preservation deemed relevant by University perception for the creation of jobs and artificial projects like Blue Marsh Lake which is 1.8 sq miles (4.7 km²) with more than 100,000 — 37 species of Fish built directly by Army Corps of Engineers in my hometown of Reading and its a fresh water reservoir.

    • Jeremy Bloom

      Um, what? “Red Deer River has no significance for historical preservation”? So if your HOME isn’t historically significant you’d be okay with us just coming and dumping thousands of gallons of oil on it if it was part of our “business model” and “created jobs”?

      Gee, I didn’t think so.

      So maybe you should shut up about corporations destroying OTHER peoples’ homes.

    • Phanyxx

      Where are you getting the figure of 25,000 jobs from? I don’t believe that for a second. Building the pipeline would certainly take a lot of manpower, but they’re transient, temporary jobs that won’t leave a lasting economic impact on the areas they pass through. The environmental impact? That’s a whole other story.

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