Alberta pipeline hits swamp with over 15,000 gallons of oil

Yet another major spill in the routinely oil-plagued Alberta, Canada, has left the swamps of Red Earth Creek polluted. The incident occurred Nov. 27 after a pipeline experienced a mechanical failure, leaking over 15,000 gallons of crude into the muskeg, which is located about 217 miles northwest of the town of Edmonton. The pipeline is owned by Canadian Natural Resources Limited, which has begun cleanup operations in the area.

The disaster is another episode in an ongoing string of incidents that have left even environmentalists cynical, referring to Alberta as nothing more than a “petro state.” After all, Alberta has endured numerous – and largely unreported – oil spills nearly every month since August, and it is estimated that it has experienced at least one spill each day for the past 37 years. Its history of such incidents is well noted, with some, such as one that hit Cold Lake with over 800,000 gallons in July 2013, being of particular infamy. In fact, at least 169,000 gallons of oil have spilled in total since October.

Canada’s Harper administration continues to tout pipelines as jobs creators, similar to many U.S. Republicans, with Alberta premier Jim Prentice calling them “nation building” and at the heart of Canada’s economic future. However, according to economist Robyn Allan, major companies like Enbridge and Kinder Morgan, which boast of pipeline job benefits, “deliberately mislead, misrepresent, and obfuscate in order to exaggerate benefits, deny the cost, and underplay environmental risk. We are told half-truths, we are made false promises, and since [the] needs and concerns [of environmentalists] are inconvenient we are viewed with contempt.”

For Canadian Natural Resources, the culprit behind this latest spill, a quick look at the company’s safety record explains a lot, for it was they who had previously also cited “mechanical failures” as the reason for the Cold Lake spill, for which they were responsible. And before the Red Earth Creek disaster, the company had reported 25 spills this year alone – many of which also were attributed to “mechanical failures.”

Erin Flanagan, an analyst with environmental advocacy group Pembina Institute, remarked, “We can connect the dots. If [this latest spill] is a mechanical issue, that’s something that CNRL has claimed had been a problem for them in the past. So I think it’s very troubling. They have a track record of these ongoing blowouts.”

Photo: A Canadian goose tries to fly out of the oil-soaked water. Jonathon Gruenke/AP


Blake Skylar
Blake Skylar

Blake is a writer and production manager, responsible for the daily assembly of the People's World home page. He has earned awards from the IWPA and ILCA, and his articles have appeared in publications such as Workday Minnesota, EcoWatch, and Earth First News. He has covered issues including the BP oil spill in New Orleans and the 2015 U.N. Climate Conference in Paris.

He lives in Erie, Pennsylvania with his girlfriend and their cats. He enjoys wine, books, music, and nature. In his spare time, he operates a music review channel on YouTube, creates artwork, and is writing a fantasy novel, as well as a self-help book and several digital comics.