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Letter: Short-term gain doesn’t trump lands

I’ve been composing this letter in my mind and heart for the past few weeks. In 1990 I attended the Nitrogen Management Task Force meeting(s) in St Cloud to comment on the effects of chemical fertilization on the Straight River Basin and these very vulnerable soils and aquifers. I warned at the time that we are sitting on a time bomb...that wells will be polluted by nitrates, condemned and abandoned. My words were for naught. Here we are now, 24 years later and the DNR is using the Straight River Basin as an intensive study for water management. On top of the concern of continued over use of the aquifer, infiltration of chemicals, de-oxygenation of the lake and river...we now have a proposed 30-inch pipeline carrying 325,000 barrels of oil per day (that is the low estimate, the pipeline is expected to carry much more per day over time) through this same vulnerable basin. This isn’t just crude oil running through these pipelines, but chemicals such as xylene, toluene, benzene and other ‘proprietary’ chemicals of which we apparently have no right to know. A much smaller underground pipeline near Tioga, ND, carrying far less oil, was apparently struck by lightning last September causing a one-quarter-inch rupture ... however, 20,000 barrels of oil spilled in a farmer’s field, an amount that would fill 30 rail tanker cars. The farmer himself, not the pipeline company, was the one who discovered the leak.

This pipeline puts at risk our food, water resources and wildlife habitat, not to mention the area’s largest financial resource...recreation and tourism. It also puts at risk forest and wetland management, wild rice lakes, agriculture, recreation and tourism jobs for people who live and raise families in the area. It will create temporary jobs with an influx of workers from outside the area and the attendant risks. The cleanup costs could run into the hundreds of millions of dollars should there be a breach in the pipeline...and a disaster could put an end to the way of life we all love here.

This is not about our energy security. Enbridge has already sought privacy protection through the PUC to deny us knowledge of who they are shipping this oil to...and with the shale oil depletion expected to happen within a decade or so, there is no guarantee that Enbridge will not be pumping heavy, dangerous Alberta tar sands (very abrasive) through this very pipeline. Enbridge does not have a good record at transparency or safety.

There is a loud cry from the Senate Energy committee to lift the ban on exporting crude from the lower 48...there is a call for President Obama to do it with an executive order. In 2011 the USA became a net exporter of petroleum. Shipments abroad of petroleum products exceeded imports by 439,000 barrels a day...have you seen prices coming down? If it’s our energy security we are concerned about, why don’t these products remain in-country?

I don’t wish to attend a meeting 24 years from now to discuss how we clean up the mess from this pipeline, how we restore our waters, how we restore our local economy. This is important for all of our grandchildren and for their grandchildren.

Do yourselves a favor and educate yourself on Enbridge’s abysmal record. The straits of Mackinac are currently in extreme danger...and, the Kalamazoo River oil spill which occurred in July 2010 when a pipeline operated by Enbridge (Line 6B) burst and flowed into Talmadge Creek, a tributary of the Kalamazoo River. A six-foot break in the pipeline resulted in the largest inland oil spill, and one of the costliest spills, in U.S. history. It still isn’t cleaned up completely at the cost of $1,039,000,000 according to newly disclosed figures released by Enbridge.

A final note. Enbridge is a foreign foreign companies have a constitutional right to ‘take’ lands using eminent domain within our sovereignty?

Short-term economic gain does not trump our lands and waterways (this is the Headwaters of the mighty Mississippi River)...and this short-term gain surely could bring us all very lasting pain.

Bruce Brummitt

Rural Osage