Ruptured Oil Pipe Sends 877,000 Gallons of Crude Oil into Kalamazoo River, Threatening People and Wildlife
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"Enbridge takes every incident very seriously and we're treating this situation as a top priority. No one was injured," states Enbridge on the webpage it set up in response to the incident.
While Enbridge president and CEO Patrick Daniel said that the pipeline would reopen in "a matter of days," the company was today issued a Corrective Action Order by the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, which ordered the pipeline to remain shutdown until it undergoes a comprehensive safety assessment.
President Barack Obama has been briefed on the spill and White House spokesperson Matt Lehrich promises help to the region. Senator Carl Levin (D -- Michigan) issued a statement that indicates that his office is talking to federal agencies "to make sure that those carrying out the cleanup have all the resources they need." However, Sen. Levin emphasized that the Enbridge should bear the costs of cleanup and to compensate people who suffered damages resulting from the disaster.
Cleanup crews -- most of them hired by Enbridge -- have recovered about 45,000 gallons of oil so far, according to Mary Detloff. A contingent from the U.S. Coast Guard is expected later this week. Both Enbridge and Detloff said there were plans today to install 10 oil containment booms, in addition to 10 booms already in place, most of these in Calhoun County -- but Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm countered this in a press briefing Wednesday evening.
"That simply was not true," the governor said about the claims. She said there were only eight booms on the river yesterday, and the officials have only placed another five today.
Enbridge has also said it has doubled its cleanup efforts, dedicating 200 employees to the work. Gov. Granholm suggested that the numbers supplied by Enbridge may be inflated, saying that she has "a healthy degree of skepticism both on (Enbridge's) actions and what we have heard." Enbridge is also maintaining that the amount of spilled oil is lower than others are estimating; it suggests 789,000 gallons have spilt.
"From my perspective, the response has been anemic," Gov. Granholm said, as quoted in The Detroit Free Press. "I worry that we were undersold about the amount of crude that was released." In a press briefing, Gov. Granholm added that the response of both the EPA and Enbridge has been "wholly inadequate" and emphasized that if the oil reaches Lake Michigan, "it would be a tragedy of historic proportions."
Indeed, U.S. Representative Mark Schauer (D -- Bedford Township) is challenging Enbridge for delaying official notification of the spill. Enbridge didn't report the incident until 1:30 pm EST, at least three hours after the spill was confirmed. Enbridge president and CEO Patrick Daniels said publicly that the company was aware of the spill at 10:30 am EST. There are also questions about 911 logs from the previous evening, showing that residents were reporting the odor, according to The Detroit Free Press.
Rep. Schauer held a press conference on the riverbank Wednesday, in which he slammed Enbridge's slow response. He said he is introducing legislation to define "immediate notification" in the requirements of federal law, beyond the current standard of the "earliest practicable moment." Rep. Schauer, who serves on the House subcommittee of on Railroads, Pipelines and Hazardous Materials, wants this regulation to require notification within one hour, with a fine of $250,000 as a penalty. He is also considering legislation that will raise the fine for a series of delayed notifications from the current $1 million to $2.5 million.
As the conversation heats up about climate and energy reforms that are an essential response to the Gulf Coast spill, the "other oil spill" in Michigan pushes the point to a crisis, revealing how deep comprehensive environmental reforms have to go to be fully effective. For starters, the Great Lakes Basin Compact, a binding agreement of eight states that became state and federal law in 2008, must integrate environmental regulations. Currently, the compact addresses commodification and diversion concerns for the massive freshwater supply, but has little in the way of environmental protection or regulation. While Congress instituted a drilling ban for the Great Lakes in 2005, many have been pushing to lift it … and today's incident reveals that it's not just drilling that presents a threat. Danielle Korpalski of the National Wildlife Federation said that, coincidentally, the NWF is releasing a report this week that makes the connections among oil spills throughout the U.S.