Oil and gas accidents are nationwide, says a report


As Congress debates a response to the BP oil spill, a new report from the National Wildlife Federation details a full decade of oil spills, gas leaks and other disasters involving fossil fuels across the country, including several incidents in Minnesota. Report author Tim Warman says it includes a map that indicates not a single state has been spared from oil and gas accidents.
“There have been accidents in every state and, if you look at the Gulf of Mexico where the BP spill is, you can’t really see the Gulf for the number of small dots we have, indicating where accidents and leaks have occurred.”
Among incidents detailed in the report: an Enbridge Energy pipeline leak on Minnesota’s Leech Lake Reservation in April 2010. Since that time, there have been other incidents with the same pipeline, according to Diane Thompson with the Leech Lake Band of Objibwe, including one that involved a 48,000-gallon crude oil spill. She says some are as recent as this July.
“We’ve had two incidents within the last two weeks regarding a flange that had leaked, and they cleaned up two barrels of crude oil. Yesterday, we had another incident where natural gas had leaked from one of their pumping stations.”
Thompson, who is the tribe’s hazardous waste manager, says part of the challenge is an aging pipeline that dates back to 1952 and has shown signs of wear in numerous locations. The pipe is covered in asbestos, and a recent leak that resulted in a wildfire occurred near a lake. She says other leaks could have gone undiscovered or unreported, with potentially serious consequences.
“We have a large reservation here that it could affect our resources – our lakes, rivers, wetland, wildlife. In any big disaster, it would be a lot of population that would be affected.”
Warman says the incidents illustrate a pattern of irresponsible practices that place profits ahead of communities and the environment. As Congress debates new industry regulations, Warman hopes to see stronger rules put in place to hold oil and gas companies accountable.
“Liability for accidents, disasters, loss of life that they cause is severely limited – and we need to put that financial responsibility back.”
The report, “Assault on America: A Litany of Petroleum Company Destruction,” can be viewed at http://tiny.cc/9bdgy.