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Growth of Tar Sands Across the Midwest

Oil in Kalamazoo River

The Midwest and Great Lakes are quickly becoming the hub for transporting and refining one of the worlds dirtiest and most destructive fossil fuels on the planet: tar sands oil.

The Enbridge Pipeline Boom

Pipelines in the area are nothing new, but over the last several years the region’s infrastructure has seen a dramatic transformation: a Canadian company, Enbridge Incorporated, is undertaking a massive expansion of their system in the Great Lakes basin, also industry is working to link new and existing pipelines to reach the Gulf and Atlantic coasts, where they can sell to refiners on the international market.

If Enbridge is successful, not only would it cause pain at the pump for Midwestern drivers, but it would lay the groundwork for an explosion of new tar sands development in Canada, boosting carbon emissions and pushing our planet toward the brink of climate catastrophe. This increase in crude also exposes the already threatened Great Lakes to larger and more toxic pipeline spills. Plans are also being drawn up transport millions of gallons of tar sands oil via tanker and rail, an even riskier option than pipelines.

Map of Pipeline Expansion

Not Just a Climate Threat

In the summer of 2010 Enbridge was responsible for the largest and costliest inland oil spill in U.S. history, when a pipeline rupture sending over a million gallons of tar sands into the Kalamazoo River system poisoning people and wildlife for miles around. This disaster underscored the weakness of our state and federal safety regulations, but also showed how unprepared the industry is to respond to a toxic spill: almost three years later the river remains polluted despite Enbridge spending nearly $1 billion on the cleanup.

Watch this story about Beth Wallace, an NWF employee whose hometown was impacted by the spill, and whose life was changed forever:

The the disaster in the Kalamazoo River was of the largest tar sands oil spills ever in the Midwest, and one of many pipeline accidents in Michigan. Enbridge is responsible for hundreds of oil spills in the last decade.

National Wildlife Federation is working to stop tar sands expansion projects that will put our resources, communities and wildlife at risk, and we are also pushing for comprehensive pipeline safety reform, a process made harder by the huge gaps in oversight and accountability for the industry.

  • REPORT:  Importing Disaster: The Anatomy of Enbridge's Once and Future Oil Spill 

    Enbridge's track record is covered in oil spills. They are the world's biggest transporter of Canadian tar sands oil, and responsible for the biggest inland spill in American history. Learn more about Enbridge's track record, their reckless expansion plans, and unseemly marketing tactics used to defuse criticism.

Oil Spill Resources

Learn more about the oil spill impacts, the response, and the Canadian tar sands company that owned the pipeline.

Images of the Disaster

Photos of how the oil spill is impacting the Kalamazoo River, wildlife and communities.

Kalamazoo River Map

See where the oil disaster occured.

Great Lakes Regional Center

NWF's work to protect the Great Lakes region.

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