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Letter: Protect Minnesota's pristine waters

Five years ago today an oil pipeline ruptured in Michigan. It was and is to date the largest inland oil spill in American history. According to the EPA over a million gallons of tar sands oil poured and sank into the Kalamazoo river system. Some 35 miles of the river were polluted.  The corporate polluter, Enbridge, claims they have learned their lesson and it won’t happen again.

They say they have invested in new pipe technology, new pipeline safety inspection equipment, and a new high tech command center a 1,000 miles away in Edmonton, Canada. But recent pipeline spills suggest otherwise.  Last week Canada suffered its largest inland oil spill, 720,000 gallons. That pipe was barely a year old, and, even though the company Nexen says it used the latest inspection devices, their command center did not immediately detect the fist sized hole in the pipeline. As of this writing, clean up agencies think that the pipeline had been leaking for a couple of weeks before discovery. The company says it does not know how it happened.  In May 100,000 gallons of oil spilled into the Pacific Ocean and polluted nearly 10 miles of coastal beaches near Santa Barbara, California.

It was two hours before the pipeline operator’s high tech command center far away in Texas could figure out where the leak was coming from. Post spill examination determined corrosion had eaten away nearly 80 percent of the pipe wall thickness.  Leak detection systems, which Nexen officials and others have called the pipeline’s “failsafe systems” notoriously fall short of that namesake. Between 2002 and 2012 pipeline detection technology only caught 5 percent of the spills in the U.S. No matter the latest technology, pipelines will and do leak. Our Mississippi headwaters river and lake country and world famous Itasca State Park are at risk from Enbridge’s pipeline plans. Enbridge offers the same assurances provided by other pipeline companies—“we can make a safe pipeline.” Recent evidence contradicts these claims.  Let’s protect the future of Minnesota’s pristine waters.

Richard Smith President, Friends of the Headwaters