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June 12, 2012

Oil Spill Destroys Waterway in Alberta, Canada

Alberta oil spill - Mike Hudema - Greenpeace
An oil pipeline under the Red Deer River in Alberta, Canada, spilled 1,000 to 3,000 barrels (126,000 gallons) of oil into the waterway late last week.

Officials don't know what caused the leak, but the oil from the Plains Midstream Canada pipeline has already spread downstream and threatens the community of "Red Deer, Alberta's third-largest city, which draws its water from the river."

The pipeline company is assuring the public that the oil isn't a threat yet:

Although bottled water was being trucked in as a precaution, Stephen Bart, vice-president of crude oil operations with Plains Midstream Canada, reassured the public: "At this point in time we don't believe the release poses any potential threat to both water quality and/or residents so we'll continue to monitor that situation. If that situation should change, we would respond accordingly."

Alberta oil spill - Mike Hudema - Greenpeace2
Our friends at Greenpeace have already sent people to the spill site, and the photos are awful. These spills are not few and far between - from Greenpeace's Mike Hudema:

Alberta's Premier Alison Redford called the spill "an exception." This, despite the fact that the same company had another major spill just over a year ago, one of the largest in Alberta's history...."An exception" even though less than a month ago Alberta had another spill by Pace Oil and Gas Ltd. and "an exception" even though in 2010, there were 687 failures, the majority of them leaks in Alberta, which resulted in 3,416 cubic metres of spilled hydrocarbons. In most cases, the cause was internal or external corrosion or construction damage.

This spill comes on the heels of last week's Black Out Speak Out Day - a national day of protest against Prime Minister Stephen Harper's conservative government's attack on civil society organizations including labor, environment, immigration, and students. These groups dared to speak out against the groups' success in threatening what Big Oil wants most: unlimited tar sands expansion and pipelines like the Keystone XL to send its oil around the globe.

We all know that this is what oil industry expansion leads to – more spills, more lives ruined, more environmental devastation. Residents along Alberta's Red Deer River are now witnessing it first-hand.

"My place is destroyed," Mr. Gord Johnston said, as he prepared to abandon his home and later head for a hospital to be treated for exposure to the fumes. "My whole life's work is gone. I've pretty well lost it all here."

This spill is just the latest from Plains Midstream Canada – the company had another massive 28,000 gallon oil spill only last year. And that's just one oil company.

We can do better than this – Canada, the U.S., and beyond – we can all do better than oil. We need to be investing in clean energy rather than watching more families have their lives and land ruined by Big Oil.

-- Michael Marx, Director of Sierra Club's Beyond Oil Campaign. Photos by Mike Hudema of Greenpeace.

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