As I mapped out the week ahead I noticed that the House of Representatives Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure was holding a hearing on the Enbridge Pipeline spill. My first reaction to spotting this news was, “Which one?”
For the record, the hearing is to review what happened in the Marshall, Michigan pipeline oil spill, which took place two months ago and spilled an estimated 800,000 gallons of oil into the Kalamazoo River. The reason for the confusion is that this is becoming common news in the Midwest.
Currently, clean-up operations are in full-force following another spill, this time in the Chicago suburb of Romeoville, Illinois. The Romeoville leak poured 600,000 gallons of Canadian crude oil into a retention pound before it was controlled. In January, another Enbridge spill sent 126,000 gallons of crude into North Dakota. In 2007, there were two Enbridge spills in Wisconsin, and since 2003 the company’s pipelines have spilled 12 times in Michigan.
Accompanying all of these environmental impacts, are some political and business considerations. The latest spill in Chicago comes not just after the Kalamazoo spill and the Gulf Oil Spill, and before the Congressional hearings on Enbridge, but also at a time when Enbridge’s rival is getting into the political game.
Pipeline industry rival TransCanada Inc. is playing politics with a pipeline of its own. Montana’s governor has already gone public in support of tapping into a proposed TransCanada pipeline that would carry Alberta tar sand oil to American refineries. This has drawn much attention from environmental groups north of the border. A Wall Street Journal article pointed out that TransCanada is likely to be affected by the reputation its rival is earning, while the people of the upper mid-west are simply dealing oil it keeps spilling.