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Forum discusses impact of oil pipelines

| Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Film, Television and Theater professor Gary Sieber moderated the 2014 Reilly Center Forum “Life Amongst the ‘Tar Sands’ Oil Pipelines: Impacts on Rural Communities and the Environment,” which featured four panelists sharing their experiences with tar sands oil Tuesday in the Eck Visitor’s Center.

“Few people likely realize that tar sands pipelines run through Michiana,” Sieber said. ”In fact, the largest on-land spill occurred around here just four years ago.

“Pipeline 6B, owned by Enbridge Inc., spilled over a million gallons of tar sands oil into the Kalamazoo River.”

Michigan State University professor Steve Hamilton worked on the scene when the spill happened, and said cleaning up such spills from tar sands pipelines like Pipeline 6B and the planned Keystone XL Pipeline could bear huge environmental costs.

A panelist in Tuesday night’s forum in Eck Visitor’s Center.discusses the impact of oil pipeline spills.JODI LO |The Observer
A panelist in Tuesday night’s forum in Eck Visitor’s Center.discusses the impact of oil pipeline spills.
“How far do you want to go to try to get [the oil] out, because the act of getting it out is itself environmentally damaging? … It turns out that freshwater oil spills haven’t been very well studied, and this particularly type of oil hasn’t really been studied at all,” Hamilton said.

Notre Dame civil engineering professor Patricia Maurice said she has a house along Line 6B and felt that the way she and her neighbors were treated was abhorrent.

We have whole towns without water. We’ve had countless court cases between landowners and Enridge,” Maurice said. “This is one of the most profitable companies in all of Canada … and I think they could probably spend a little more money to make sure things are done safely and correctly … but they won’t unless residents raise up and take advantage of the political apparatus.”

Beth Wallace, a Michigan native who worked for the National Wildlife Federation, said the numerous defects in pipelines carrying derivatives from tar sands, like Line 6B, pose a clear and present threat to her home’s environment.

Oakland University professor Jeffrey Insko also lives near Line 6B. He said increased regulation and more effective leadership will be the first step to solving problems along the pipeline.

“First, we need a serious overhaul of federal regulations,” Insko said. “The fact of the matter is that Enbridge and companies like Enbridge are not suddenly going to start living up to the values they profess all the time. Our only hope is a regulatory system with some serious teeth.”


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