Early last evening, news outlets reported that a train operated by Canadian Pacific Railway derailed, spilling 30,000 gallons of crude oil in western Minnesota. The train originated in western Canada and was bound for Chicago.
Yesterday’s reports from mainstream media were ambiguous as to whether the contents carried by the train was tar sands. At the time of publication of a Reuters article on the spill, a spokesperson for Canadian Pacific said “he did not know if the oil that spilled was tar sands.” However, Dan Olson, a spokesperson for the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, today confirmed to Tar Sands Blockade that the substance spilled is, indeed, tar sands from Alberta, Canada.
14 cars on a 94-car train derailed, near the town of Parkers Prairie, MN, 150 miles northwest of Minneapolis, spilling their contents. Due to the snow and extreme cold weather, the spilled tar sands is thicker and the clean-up process is likely to take longer.
As well as potentially affecting the health and safety of surrounding communities as far as the Twin Cities, the spill potentially threatens a thousand lakes in Otter Tail County, where the derailment occurred and where tar sands contamination of these vital waterways would be devastating.
“Only about 1,000 gallons has been recovered,” said Olson in an article updated late this afternoon. “The remaining oil on the ground has thickened into a heavy tar-like consistency.” The spill has triggered an investigation by federal officials.
The AP reports that the spill could play a role in the politics surrounding the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, and we couldn’t agree more. For years, we’ve been saying that it’s just a matter of time before Keystone XL, if constructed, spills, bringing death and destruction to all in its route. The pipeline would also incentivize further tar sands growth and exploitation, signifying game over for livable communities and the planet.
A recent flawed, biased State Department study of the environmental impacts of the northern segment of Keystone XL made the short-sighted statement that when it comes to global warming, shipping the tar sands by pipeline would release less pollution than using rail.
Marty Cobenais, organizer for the Indigenous Environmental Network, a member of Red Lake Ojibwe and the Enbridge Blockade, today spoke the truth about tar sands pollution in response to the catastrophe in Minnesota:
“Regardless of the transportation mode, an oil spill still contaminates Mother Earth and creates health and environmental concerns. This is why we want Enbridge’s illegal pipelines to cease the flow of oil and to be removed from the Red Lake Reservation. It is just a game of Russian Roulette as to where and when a spill occurs.”
Today marks the 29th day of a sustained blockade on Red Lake tribal land in northern Minnesota. The grassroots group of Red Lake Chippewa and Anishinaabe Indians is joined by blockaders and solidarity activists calling for Canadian tar sands giant Enbridge to shut down and remove all oil pipelines illegally operating on Red Lake lands.
The campaign, Nizhawendaamin Inaakiminaan (We Love Our Land), has been occupying land directly above four pipelines across an easement that Enbridge has claimed since 1949, when the company installed the first of four pipelines across land owned by the Red Lake Band of Chippewa despite not having an easement from the Red Lake Chippewa Nation. These pipes carry toxic tar sands, Bakken oil, as well as Canadian crude. By threatening the local lakes, these pipes endanger the lives and economic livelihood of Red Lake Band members.
Cindy Spoon, a Texan and spokesperson with Tar Sands Blockade, said:
“From the tragedy in Kalamazoo, Michigan, where over a million gallons of tar sands spilled in July 2010, to this recent spill in Minnesota, one thing’s clear: tar sands is dirty and dangerous. Let these disasters be a cautionary tale for all of us in the path of this reckless industry’s destruction.
“I’m fed up with rich fossil fuel corporations getting to decide when and where they can irrevocably damage our homes and our climate. Tar Sands Blockade stands in solidarity with the Red Lake Blockade and all people rising up to ensure not a drop of toxic tar sands will flow through our communities.”