If you happen to be the sort of person who just never gets out much, you will be interested to know the environmental crisis is coming to your house, and you can just go out in your yard and join in with the multitudes fighting to save the planet from disaster. I'm not kidding.
Let's chat for a moment about something called the Flanagan South Pipeline Project which Enbridge Energy Company is currently construction. The pipeline, 36 inches in diameter, will traverse 600 miles across Illinois, Missouri, Kansas and on into Oklahoma (a much smaller pipeline, the Spearhead pipeline, already runs the course). The new pipeline will carry heavy Canadian crude, initially 600,000 barrels per day, primarily from Canada’s tar sands region in Alberta. Light crude from the Bakken Formation in Montana and North Dakota could also flow through it.
The Flanagan south line will link the Flanagan oil terminal an hour and a half southwest of Chicago with a crude oil hub at Cushing, Okla. From there, other pipelines can move oil south to the nation’s refining capital on the Texas coast. However, as the St. Louis Post Dispatch reports, you ain't seen nothing yet:
At $2.6 billion, the project is enormous in its own right. But it represents just a piece of Enbridge’s broader plans to expand capacity for moving hundreds of thousands of additional barrels of oil a day from western Canada’s tar sands and the Bakken formation in the northern Great Plains to Gulf Coast refineries where it can be made into gasoline, diesel and chemicals.
Another Enbridge expansion, the Southern Access Extension, would connect the same Flanagan terminal with a storage hub 165 miles to the south in Patoka, Ill., about 75 miles east of St. Louis. Enbridge is also working with another company to develop a separate oil pipeline from Patoka to the Louisiana coast by converting parts of an existing natural gas pipeline.
Where is the outrage over the dangers this pipeline will create? Did I mention that the permitting process being used does not even require a comprehensive environmental analysis or allow for public input? Until very recently, very few people even knew it existed.
A reporter with St. Louis Public Radio says only a few people she spoke with in Quincy, Illinois had a clue about the project.
Doug Hayes a lawyer for the Sierra club says, “A lot of the people we’ve talked to along the pipeline route have been pretty surprised to learn there’s a pipeline three quarters the size of Keystone XL in their backyard.”
Kind of hard to get upset over what you don't know is there.
Hayes told the Post Dispatch:
...the use of Nationwide Permit 12 was improper for the Flanagan South Pipeline and violates the intent of the Clean Water Act by treating each of the pipeline’s 2,000 or so stream and river crossings as individual projects.
There is more. NPR reports:
Despite similarities between the Enbridge and TransCanada projects, Flanagan South has received far less national opposition than Keystone.
This is, in part, because Enbridge is building its 5,000 miles of new and expanded pipelines in segments. Most are domestic ― like Flanagan South ― and have less stringent permitting requirements.
Like with the southern route of the Keystone XL, the part that goes through Oklahoma, the Flanagan South doesn’t cross an international border. This means it doesn’t require State Department approval. Enbridge is trying to use a regulatory shortcut known as Nationwide Permit 12 to prevent the kind of protest happening with the Keystone XL, by getting the pipeline in the ground before the opposition starts.
Permit 12 allows for expedited approval with little to no oversight or public in put.
Like Israeli settlements, Enbridge is creating facts on the ground.
The Post Dispatch looked further and found:
In Missouri alone, Flanagan South construction is estimated to “permanently and temporarily impact approximately 62,840 linear feet of stream equaling an area of 24.91 acres and approximately 38.23 acres of wetland,” the Missouri Department of Natural Resources said in a letter to Enbridge in April. The pipeline would also cross eight streams that already fail to meet federal Clean Water Act standards.
Lorin Crandall of the Missouri Coalition for the Environment said many of the water crossings in Missouri are also sources of drinking water, a reason why people across the state — not just landowners along the pipeline route — should be concerned about the Flanagan South project.
That’s especially true given that Enbridge is the same company responsible for the 2010 spill in Michigan that released 840,000 gallons of diluted bitumen into the Kalamazoo River. Diluted bitumen is a mix of heavy Canadian crude oil mixed with chemicals that allow it to flow through pipelines. Three years later, the cleanup from the disaster still isn’t complete.
...the possible impacts on water quality and the public health. The proposed pipeline route crosses the South Grand River just North of Archie, within one mile of the City of Archie’s water intake pump on the Grand. Adrian’s water intake pump is another mile downriver.
Clearly, a pipeline spill in this vicinity would be damaging to both communities and to the many farmers and rural residents that share water with these towns through our rural water districts.
We’ve been talking with experts and attempting to determine the risks of such a spill. It turns out that spill risks are very high because the substance that would be coming through the pipeline is highly toxic, corrosive, abrasive and conducive to spills. The pipeline would be carrying diluted bitumen. Bitumen is a tar-like substance that has various chemicals and hydrocarbons added to it so that it will flow through pipelines. The industry refers to the substance as “dilbit”. Here’s some of our main concerns: Dilbit contains benzene, mixed hydrocarbons and n-hexane. All three are toxins that can affect the human brain and central nervous system.
Dilbit’s characteristics make it very different than conventional petroleum, therefore it operates very differently than does conventional oil as it flows through the pipeline. Dilbit has much higher acidity, viscosity, sulfur content, pipeline temperature and pipeline pressure than do conventional oil pipelines. Dilbit also contains higher rates of flow per second of quartz and silicates than do commercial sand blasters. These factors create concerns regarding pipeline spill risks. Dilbit does not float when it spills into water like conventional oil. Dilbit sinks, making surface water containment strategies ineffective.
Despite industry promises of safety and pipeline integrity, spills happen often. In fact, there are more than 100 petrochemical pipeline spills every year flowing toxic poisons into our forests, fields, waterways and communities.
...experienced a dilbit pipeline spill in 2010 near the town of Marshall, Michigan which contaminated 35 miles of the Kalamazoo River with more than 1 million gallons of the sticky, thick, tarry stuff. Three years later, problems in the River persist. Part of the problem is that Dilbit does not behave like oil. It sinks, which makes traditional oil spill containment tools less effective.
A recent Exxon oil spill in Arkansas reveals the perils of the diluted bitumen pipelines. On March 31st, 2013, 500,000 gallons of dilbit were spilled into the town of Mayflower, Arkansas. The dilbit emitted hydrogen sulfide, benzene and toluene resulting in citizens sick with gastrointestinal problems, headaches, respiratory problems, skin irritation including chemical burns, and extreme fatigue. The dilbit burst from an aging pipeline (like the aging Speahead, noted above) and filled their neighborhood with toxic fumes and black tarry sludge. Aging pipelines may be more vulnerable to the higher pressures required to transport the thick, heavy dilbit.
Kathleen Logan Smith with the Missouri Coalition for the Environment says the pipeline could destroy ecologically important habitats, and contaminate waterways and drinking water supplies. “It wouldn’t take much to create a real problem,” said Logan Smith. “One disaster would be a long-term problem because it’s very hard to clean this stuff up.”
Heather B. Navarro, MCE's Executive Director adds,
These tars sands are just increasing our reliance on fossil fuels. If this country cares about jobs and efficiency and moving forward, we need to be investing in renewable sources of energy instead of pouring all of our money and giving these huge handouts to these private companies.
Sierra Club’s Oklahoma Chapter Director David Ocamb says,
We’ve already seen the devastating effects of toxic tar sands pipeline spills in Mayflower, Arkansas. Oklahoma’s citizens deserve the right to have safe drinking water as well as streams and lakes to recreate and fish. We must stop this expansion of tar sands pipelines in our state to secure Oklahoma’s future.
I'm thinking we are going to need something a bit more militant than a pack of law suites, the Sierra Club, and other establishment environmental groups.
So, check out if this pipeline is coming your way, and then head on our and say, "Hold it right there, pardner."
The following is from the Nation Blogs.
THE NEXT FRONTIER FOR PIPELINE ORGANIZING IS YOUR BACKYARD