NWF-Led Coalition Calls for Stronger Tar Sands Pipeline Standards

Petition Asks EPA and DOT to Protect Wildlife & Communities from Tar Sands Spills

03-26-2013 // Miles Grant
Oil in Kalamazoo River

UPDATE May 3, 2013:

NWF received a letter from Lawrence Stanton, director of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Emergency Management, acknowledging the receipt of NWF’s petition. “EPA is in the process of reviewing the petition in detail and working to coordinate with our colleagues at DOT-PHMSA,” wrote Stanton. “We will need time to sort out numerous integrated issues associated with our collective authorities and activities with respect to diluted bitumen transport. We appreciate your patience as we take up this effort in light of existing oil and chemical emergency prevention, preparedness and response priorities.”

Original post:

A coalition of landowners, former and current government officials, environmental, renewable energy and sportsmen’s groups filed a petition today with the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) asking the agencies to develop stronger safety standards for tar sands oil pipelines.

“As the Kalamazoo River spill and ongoing cleanup show, current standards are failing to protect wildlife, habitats, and water supplies against the unique risks of pipeline transit of sticky, corrosive tar sands,” said Jim Murphy, senior counsel at the National Wildlife Federation. “It’s clear we need tough new standards to protect wildlife, our natural resources and public health. Until the right standards are put into place, we shouldn’t be exposing more communities and resources to tar sands risks.”

The petition effort is spearheaded by the National Wildlife Federation and includes 29 national, state and local organizations as well as 36 landowners from states across the country impacted by existing and proposed tar sands pipelines. It requests a halt to new or expanded tar sands pipelines until adequate rules are in place.

Read the full petition here (pdf)

Current pipeline regulations were issued long before tar sands oil production ramped up and do not cover the unique aspects of tar sands. Tar sands oil poses more acute risks than conventional fuels shipped through pipelines because the oil is a volatile mix of raw bitumen – an asphalt-like substance – diluted with gas condensates. Diluted bitumen is a toxic, viscous, corrosive substance with the consistency of gritty peanut butter that must be moved at much higher pressures and temperatures than conventional oil. Strong evidence indicates tar sands oil threatens pipeline integrity.

“Tar sands oil is far from ‘conventional.’ It corrodes pipelines, contains toxins like benzene that are dangerous to human health, and is difficult to clean up because it is so heavy and thick it sinks to the bottom of water bodies, as we learned from the disastrous Kalamazoo spill,” said Murphy. “Current regulations and cleanup methods just don’t address the unique characteristics of tar sands oil and that’s why we’re calling on federal agencies to take action.”

Between 2007 and 2010, pipelines in North Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan — the main states with a history of tar sands oil pipelines — spilled almost three times more crude oil per mile of pipeline when compared to the U.S. national average. In a scathing report on the Kalamazoo River spill near Marshall, MI, the National Transportation Safety Board pointed blame at current regulations, calling them “weak” and “inadequate.”

The petition requests new standards tightening several aspects of oil transport and pipeline safety:

  • Stronger safety requirements than those for conventional crude oil;
  • Industry disclosure of products carried through pipelines and their conveyance schedules;
  • Stronger industry spill response plans;
  • Shut-down requirements upon the first indication of a leak or other pipeline failure;
  • Repair of pipelines as soon as defects are discovered; 
  • Transparent pipeline inspection reporting; and
  • Pipeline inspection and monitoring by independent entities unaffiliated with pipeline or energy companies;
  • A moratorium on building new or expanded tar sands pipelines until new regulations are final.

Supporters of the petition will be seeking cosigners over the next few months. Under the U.S. Constitution and the federal Administrative Procedure Act, citizens can file a formal petition requesting that a federal agency take specific actions required by law or change existing regulations. This petition requests a change in existing regulations. Federal agencies are required to respond.

The full list of petition signers from Maine to Texas include:

Advocates and Advocacy Organizations

  • Appalachian Mountain Club
  • Bold Nebraska 
  • Conservation Law Foundation 
  • Dakota Resource Council 
  • Dakota Rural Action 
  • Environment Maine 
  • Freshwater Future 
  • Fresh Energy 
  • Great Lakes Environmental Law Center 
  • Indigenous Environmental Network 
  • John Kassel, Former Secretary, Vermont Agency Of Natural Resources 
  • George Lapointe, Former Commissioner, Maine Department Of Marine Resources 
  • Vermont State Senator Virginia Lyons 
  • Michigan Student Sustainability Coalition 
  • Midwest Environmental Advocates 
  • Minnesota Conservation Federation 
  • Minnesota Center For Environmental Advocacy 
  • National Wildlife Federation 
  • Natural Resources Council Of Maine 
  • Nebraska Farmers Union 
  • Nebraska Wildlife Federation 
  • New Hampshire Audubon 
  • New Hampshire Trout Unlimited 
  • New Hampshire Wildlife Federation 
  • Northern Plains Resource Council 
  • Maine State Senator John L. Patrick 
  • Save the Dunes 
  • Sebago Lake Anglers Association 
  • Sierra Club 
  • Vermont Natural Resources Council 
  • Vermont Public Interest Research Group 
  • Western Organization of Resource Councils 
  • Wisconsin Wildlife Federation

Impacted by Enbridge Kalamazoo River Spill

  • Susan M. Connolly of Marshall, MI

Portland-Montreal Pipeline Landowners

  • Bart Hague of Waterford, ME
  • Ron Holland and Laurie Green of Caledonia County, VT
  • Brent and Rona Kinsley of Northeast Kingdom, VT
  • Bruce Kirmmse of Randolph, NH
  • Robert W. Kruszyna and Harriet G. Kruszyna of Randolph, NH

Landowners and Nearby Residents Impacted by Proposed Keystone XL Pipeline

  • Bruce and RoxAnn Boettcher of Bassett, NE
  • Mr. and Mrs. L. A. Breiner of Stuart, NE
  • Nick and Becky Cook of Fullerton, NE
  • Julia Trigg Crawford of Sumner, TX
  • Steven DaSilva and Kathy Redman DaSilva of Nacogdoches, TX
  • Jenelda Dittrich of Elgin, NE
  • Calvin and Cathy Dobias of Atkinson, NE
  • Lamar W. Hankins of San Marcos, TX
  • Jack and Lynelle Huck of Lincoln, NE
  • Jim Knopik and Carolyn Knopik of Belgrade, NE
  • Ron and Brenda Knopik of Belgrade, NE
  • Tom and Gail Knopik of Fullerton, NE
  • Richard Miles of Omaha, NE
  • Joan Kruse Rogers of Seward, NE
  • Randy Thompson of Martell, NE
  • Jeramie and Brenda VanLeer of Archer, NE
  • Jason Wessendorff of Verdigre, NE