Last week I published a story titled “Five Oil Spills in One Week: ‘Accidents’ or Business as Usual”. Within an hour of publication came the news of a sixth spill from a CP derailment in nothern Ontario. As the story made the rounds on social media in the ensuing days, readers provided updates as new spills continued to unfold. One week later, the tally stands at 10.
News of the latest – a biodiesel spill from Suncor’s plant in Port Moody, BC – came in this morning. Said Ben West of ForestEthics Advocacy upon learning of the spill, “At the time we were working on some campaign materials reminding candidates for the upcoming BC provincial election that they should be paying close attention to the nine oil industry spills, leaks, derailments and disasters that have taken place in North America in the last two weeks. And then this happened right here in BC — amazing.”
City officials have confirmed the leak of approximately 220 barrels of biodiesel from a storage tank at the facility.
Other spills not covered last week’s article include:
- A Shell pipeline spill into the coastal bayou near Houston
- A petrochemical spill at an ExxonMobil plant in Louisiana
- A spill at the Terra Nova oil field off the coast of Newfoundland
I want to be clear that these spills involve a range of fossil fuels – from diluted bitumen to hydraulic fluid to Tar Sands waste ponds and petrochemical products. It’s not just the range of materials and situations in which these malfunctions have occurred, but the broad geographic distribution of these spills that give one pause. We’ve now seen spills in BC, Alberta, the Northwest Territories, Ontario, Newfoundland, Minnesota, Michigan, Arkansas, Louisiana and Texas.
No matter their size or nature, none of these are healthy for the airsheds and watercourses into which they spill, nor the people and animals subjected to their toxic effects. They all serve as a reminder of the systemic danger of an economic system dependent on fossil fuels – particularly in the era of “extreme energy”, where we’ve already got to the good, cheap, easy stuff and what remains is, to quote Barack Obama, “dirty, dwindling and dangerous.”
“The oil industry, it seems, has been in total disarray over the last couple of weeks,” remarks Ben West, on the eve of a BC election in which energy issues should figure prominently.
“This election is a key moment for political leaders to step forward to defend our coast and our local communities. We hope these incidents are a wake up call for all BC politicians.”