RICHARDSON, TX - June 19 - Dozens of concerned community members and activists from the Texas Action Coalition for the Environment and Tar Sands Blockade have stormed the lobby at the Pipeline & Hazardous Materials Safety Administration’s (PHMSA) Pipeline Safety Public Awareness Workshop, being held at the Hyatt Regency in Richardson. The protesters staged a tar sands spill and are carrying banners and signs to say that tar sands aren’t being regulated and must be stopped. Activists are expected to stay outside in demonstration until dusk, when they will hold lighted billboards reading “PHMSA: No Tar Sands Pipelines” and “Water > Oil”.
Early this morning many from across the Keystone XL pipeline route attended the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) "Pipeline Safety Public Awareness Workshop”, held inside the Richardson Hyatt Regency Hotel. Texas ACE and TSB are airing their grievances directly to regulators, asking pertinent questions during panel Q&A sessions in order to draw out a complete record of the PHMSA assessment of its awareness efforts.
The sad truth is that PHMSA fails to properly regulate diluted tar sands bitumen – the deadly substance which has leaked in the hundreds of thousands of gallons from shoddily maintained pipelines regulated by PHMSA, poisoning communities like Mayflower, Arkansas and Kalamazoo, Michigan. In fact, Senator Edward Markey recently revealed that while PHMSA issued a Corrective Action Order against Exxon Mobil for the Pegasus tar sands pipeline, they allowed Exxon to use a disaster response plan that had not yet been approved without facing any consequences. Exxon did not detect and respond to the spill in Mayflower, Arkansas within the required time limit of the formally approved safety plan. This is just one of many examples of industry and government collusion and oversight to keep the high risk and toxicity of tar sands out of the eyes and mind of the public.
Of particular concern is the fact that tar sands (diluted bitumen or "dilbit") is a different chemical composition than crude oil, and yet it is only classified as such when it benefits the industry bottom line. On the basis that tar sands dilbit is “synthetic crude” and not crude oil, the transport of tar sands through pipelines in the US is exempt from payments into the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund. Otherwise, regulators claim that tar sands bitumen is a type of crude oil. Tar sands are far more difficult and costly to clean up and spills are more toxic to water, wildlife and affected persons as a result of the differences in composition. “Tar sands dilbit needs to be recognized and classified as different from crude oil, for the sake of public awareness and pipeline safety,” says Aly Tharp, one of the organizers of today's protest.