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Enbridge Refuses to Pay for Onoing Damage Study of Michigan Tar Sands Disaster

As Keystone XL tar sands pipeline gets boost to move forward, Kalamazoo River still reeling from 2010 tar sands spill

Jacob Chamberlain, staff writer

Kalamazoo River cleanup. (John Grap/The Enquirer)

Canadian pipeline company Enbridge Inc. is refusing to pay for an independent review designed to assess the ongoing environmental impacts caused by the nearly one million gallons of tar sands oil that spilled into Michigan's Kalamazoo River following a pipeline rupture in 2010.

Trustees of the National Resource Damage Assessment group—which includes state and federal agencies—has repeatedly requested that the Canada based company help pay for two needed reviews of the vegetation and recreational areas affected by the spill.

However, the Detroit Free Press reports that Enbridge refused the requests on two occasions, in both June and October, saying enough data had already been collected.

"Absolutely not," said Stephanie Millsap, a trustee representative for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, in response to Enbridge's claim.

"The trustees' goal is to ensure Enbridge adequately compensates the public for the injuries their oil spill caused, and potentially is still causing, to natural resources," Millsap wrote in an email to Detroit Free Press.

"The oil not only oiled the actual river itself but also many, many acres of floodplain habitat, as well," she said. The spill damaged roughly 40 miles along the fragile ecosystem, forced the closure of portions of the river until 2012, and has required a lengthy cleanup process that continues to this day.

"If spilled into the environment, oil produced from tar sands is just as damaging as oil produced by other means, as residents along the Kalamazoo River in Michigan learned in 2010. Cleanup of that oil spill is still under way nearly three years later. Surely, producers of oil from tar sands should help contribute to the costs of cleaning up these spills -- just like producers of other oil must do," said Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich.

A proposal for a cross-country pipeline by Keystone XL, which would carry the highly toxic and corrosive tar sands from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico, remains an imminent possibility. On Friday, a draft of an environmental impact assessment, approved by the Obama administration, was released and quickly and came under fire from environmental groups over the assessment's blatant inadequacies.


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