Concerned with what has been an incessant string of oil spills and leaks, and with the health of the drinking water supply for millions of people on the Great Lakes at risk, activists of Rainforest Action Network Chicago (RAN-C) rallied in front of the Canadian Consulate in Chicago with a strong message: Stop poisoning us with toxic tar sands oil!
Amidst the backdrop of the BP oil spill tragedy in the Gulf, this summer the Chicago region has witnessed a series of local oil spills including the BP Whiting, Indiana refinery spill last month and the Enbridge pipeline spills in Marshall, Michigan, and Romeoville, Illinois.
“These continuing spills underscore the dangers of importing dirty tar sands oil from Canada, the dirtiest form of transportation fuel on the planet,” notes Debra Michaud, spokesperson for RAN-C. “We need to transition to clean energy rather than expand the dirtiest and most expensive forms of fossil fuels like Canadian tar sands.”
The tar sands processing emit 3 times more greenhouse gasses than conventional oil. It requires up to 5 barrels of water and the excavation of 4 tons of earth to produce a single barrel of tar sands oil. A recent study has shown that tar sands development has polluted the Athabasca River flowing through Alberta, Canada with mercury, lead, cadmium and arsenic, and turned huge tracts of land into lunar landscapes. The Alberta provincial and Canadian national governments want to develop the tar sands, which represent the largest reserve of crude oil outside the Middle East.
The local BP refinery in Whiting is undertaking a nearly $3.8 billion expansion project, the largest in Indiana’s history, to process more tar sands oil. The oil is highly contaminated with sulphur, salt, acids, and heavy metals — the effluent of which will be dumped into Lake Michigan. The refinery experienced a leak in August of this year. Its performance has been criticized by the US EPA, and expansion plans are opposed by some Illinois lawmakers and environmental groups.
Enbridge, Inc., a Canadian company, is currently the target of a lawsuit by 250 farmers in Central Illinois who are fighting to preserve their farmland from an Enbridge pipeline expansion through the region. Its pipelines carrying tar sands crude ruptured and leaked in Marshall, Michigan, and Romeoville, Illinois.
“Building oil pipelines to the tar sands guarantees more oil spills into our rivers and lakes, says Brant Olson of Rainforest Action Network. “Every dollar wasted on worsening our reliance on dirty fossil fuels should be spent on clean, renewable energy.”
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