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New Report Reveals Water Threats Posed by the "Dirty Three's" Pipeline Routes

Greenpeace analysis found tar sands oil projects could cause multiple significant spills over the next 50 years

Pipeline protest

TransCanada, Kinder Morgan, and Enbridge—the three companies proposing these four pipeline routes—have a well documented history of spilling hazardous liquids from pipelines and polluting natural resources. (Photo: Chesapeakeclimate/flickr/cc)

A recently released Greenpeace report found four proposed pipelines that would transport diluted bitumen extracted from the Canada's Alberta tar sands to the United States pose grave threats to water resources along the pipelines' routes.

Since 2010, the companies responsible for these four projects "have seen 373 hazardous liquid spills from their U.S. pipeline networks," releasing a total of "63,221 barrels of hazardous liquid."
—Greenpeace report
The three companies—TransCanada, Kinder Morgan, Enbridge, and their subsidiaries—that would construct the pipelines already operate a vast pipeline network that transports fossil fuels throughout North America, and they have a well documented history of spilling hazardous liquids and polluting natural resources.

In fact, "a recent review by oil industry trade organizations found that pipeline incidents 'impacting the public or environment' (IPE) have increased in the past 4 years." Since 2010, according to the Greenpeace report (pdf), the three companies "have seen 373 hazardous liquid spills from their U.S. pipeline networks," releasing a total of "63,221 barrels of hazardous liquids"—including thousands of barrels of diluted bitumen, which is is more difficult to remove from water than conventional crude oil because it sinks.

Researchers also mapped the past seven years of spills, illustrating the wide reach of the pipeline network's environmental destruction.

Greenpeace maps three company's U.S. pipline spills

Based on recent spill rates, Greenpeace researchers predict that TransCanada's 1,179-mile Keystone XL pipeline—which has received support from the Trump administration after hitting roadblocks during the Obama era—would likely see at least 59 significant spills in its 50-year lifetime.

Of the three other proposed pipelines—TransCanada's Energy East, Kinder Morgan's Trans Mountain, and Enbridge's Line 3 Expansion—researchers estimate that the 1,031-mile Line 3 project would also experience about one significant spill per year for 50 years.

Enbridge, the company responsible for the Line 3 project, spilled more than 20,000 barrels, or an estimated 843,000 gallons, of diluted bitumen into the Kalamazoo River in Michigan in 2010, contaminating almost 40 miles of the river.

"The spilled bitumen sunk to the bottom of the river triggering a years-long, billion dollar clean-up operation that required dredging the river bottom," the report noted. Last year, the Environmental Project Agency and the Justice Department reached a $177 million settlement with the company over the spill.

Greenpeace and other environmental advocates—including many indigenous people who live along the proposed routes—are urging the pipelines' financial backers to pull out, in hopes of delaying or effectively ending the projects.

"The costs of these pipeline projects, all being fronted by banks like JPMorgan Chase, TD,  Wells Fargo, and Citi, each run into multiple billions of dollars," Greenpeace said in statement. "Greenpeace USA and Greenpeace Canada are part of an international coalition of civil society and Indigenous organizations campaigning to urge financial institutions to pull their investments in tar sands pipelines and the Dirty Three because of the financial and reputational risks they pose."

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