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REPORTING · 19th June 2012
Merv Ritchie
It just seems to keep happening to everything Enbridge. Public Relations must be a nightmare job. Today, June 19, 2012, Alberta suffered yet another major oil spill, this time from Enbridge’s own high priority pipeline connecting the Tar/Oil (bitumen) Sands to a major hub.

About 230,000 litres of heavy crude oil spilled from a pumping station pipeline onto farmland.

Enbridge, in a statement, blamed “a failure of a flange gasket” for the spill and said “there is no risk to public health or safety.”

Excerpts from Globe and Mail article here

Just after the Northern Gateway Pipeline proposal by Enbridge was re-announced in 2008 (a year in which they recorded 80 spills) they became embroiled in a lawsuit over a spill in Wisconsin which resulted in a loss. Read it here Although not significant in dollars to Enbridge the fine of $1.1 million by the state of Wisconsin for breaking 545 environmental agreements revealed some serious issues.

Then, when they began to move ahead in 2009, finalizing their regulatory process towards the formal application, they had an oil spill in Manitoba and another spill of over 3,000 barrels in North Dakota.

Nothing has been comfortable for Enbridge since then except the support of the Canadian Government.

Enbridge had already committed themselves to the project, having acknowledged receiving millions of dollars to proceed, they held various meetings and Community Advisory Boards (CAB) throughout 2009. In early 2010, March 26, they attended the Regional District Kitimat-Stikine boardroom to sell their plan. Then, one month later, on April 20, the Gulf of Mexico oil rig explosion occurred.

Enbridge was not deterred and moved ahead making their formal application on May 28th; one month after the BP rig began spilling uncontrollably.

Many smaller spills and incidents occurred after this yet the most spectacular was the Michigan Oil pipeline at Kalamazoo, which broke and spilled uncontrolled and unnoticed by their control systems on July 26, 2010.

This accident is significant for two reasons. First, Enbridge had just announced all their pipelines had been checked and were safe after an order to report back by the President of the United States was issued. Second relates to the statement made today, “there is no risk to public health or safety.” In Michigan the serious detrimental health effects have been well documented.

Then a leak occurred in Chicago, Illinois on September 9, 2010, just after the Joint Review panel initiated their public information hearings in Kitimat, BC.

The Michigan Spill however continued to dog Enbridge and in January 2011 their legal team proclaimed they weren’t responsible. Read it here

And the news of oil spills continued; On May 5, 2011 it was reported the Rainbow Pipeline in northern Alberta, near the Cree community of Little Buffalo, spilled 4.5 million litres of crude oil into a wetland – the largest oil spill experienced in Alberta since 1975. The spill was reported, at the time, to be 40 percent larger than Enbridge’s pipeline spill in Michigan.

On July 4, 2011, America’s National Holiday, another major leak was reported dumping into the Yellowstone River.

And that is the way things have gone for Enbridge as they continue with this venture, attempting to convince the public pipelines were safe.

Since Paul Stanway left the employment of the Sun newspaper empire and the public relations office of the Premier of Alberta to become the Media Relations person for Enbridge, he has had his hands full.

Every time he turns around he has another fire to put out.

This month has been particularly difficult as the most recent spills are in the communities and recreational areas of those people who were mostly on the oil industry side, the workers in the Alberta oil industry. They trusted their employers and their industry.

Today, just announced, is a spill of 230,000 litres NE of Edmonton near Elk Point.

On June 7, near Sudre Alberta, a spill of an estimated 500,000 litres occurred, polluting the Red Deer River and the local recreational areas.

On May 17, an aircraft flying overhead spotted a leak from a well owned by Pace Oil & Gas Ltd at Rainbow Lake in NW Alberta, which has been estimated to be 800,000 litres.

Next week the Joint Review Panel will return to Kitimat, BC, for the last session to listen to the communities concerns. Once again the atmosphere is likely to be one of dread; a dark foreboding of an impending doom. The general public has been worried and these recent incidents add real tangible evidence their concerns have legitimate foundation.