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Train Derailment Spills 30,000 Gallons of Oil in Minnesota -- Was it Tar Sands?


This photo released by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) show a train derailment in Minnesota.
Photo Credit: AFP

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There is a push to get tar sands through the US -- whether by pipeline or rail. Either way, it may be a mess. Reuters reported today:

A mile-long train hauling oil from Canada derailed and leaked 30,000 gallons of crude in western Minnesota on Wednesday, as debate rages over the environmental risks of transporting tar sands across the border.

The leak - the first major spill of the modern North American crude-by-rail transit boom - came when 14 cars on a 94-car Canadian Pacific train left the tracks about 150 miles north west of Minneapolis near the town of Parkers Prairie, the Otter Tail Sheriff's Department said.

A statement from Tar Sands Blockade reported:

Dan Olson, a spokesperson for the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, today confirmed that the substance spilled is, indeed, tar sands from Alberta, Canada. Tar sands shipment by rail has increased rapidly in the last three years while the industry faces widespread public outcry against tar sands pipelines and related infrastructure projects.

Michigan is still trying to clean up from a tar sands pipeline spill in July 2010 where over a million gallons ended up in the Kalamazoo RIver. It has been a monumental mess ever since and a signal about how the industry views human health and environmental safety. As Henry Henderson writes for the Huffington Post: 

While the disaster was unfolding, the CEO of Enbridge was on-hand, but did not bother to tell authorities that they should consider some alternative cleanup techniques to deal with the heavier-than-water bitumen slurping out of his busted pipe. As a result, the cleanup was largely focused on skimming oil off the surface initially. Later, officials realized that a wide swath of the river bottom was mucked with tar sands oil globules, as were sensitive wetlands along the waterway. The cleanup has focused on those areas since and recent press reports imply that even though most of the oil is gone, some of those submerged globules are continuing to spread.

The fact that Enbridge's CEO did not offer up help in this area is not surprising. The National Transportation Safety Board reports detailing the disaster are riveting to read; offering a shocking and damning account of incompetence and a bullying work atmosphere in the Alberta control room that was supposed to prevent this sort of spill. But his unwillingness to even admit that tar sands were involved in the unfortunate incident, even when asked directly by multiple reporters, continues to shock me.  

Is there more of this on tap for the US? Cindy Spoon, a native Texan and spokesperson with Tar Sands Blockade, "I'm fed up with rich fossil fuel corporations getting to decide when and where they can irrevocably damage our homes and our climate. Tar Sands Blockade stands in solidarity with the Red Lake Blockade and all people rising up to ensure not a drop of toxic tar sands will flow through our communities."

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