An estimated 3,000 barrels of oil spilled into the Red Deer River this week, discovered on June 7, and could affect the drinking water for towns downstream. Meanwhile, Premier Alison Redford is trying to assure residents in the province that this was a fluke accident and will be cleaned up quickly. She told The Globe and Mail that the cleaning is going quickly and they’re seeing “good containment.”
The Premier also said there would be a review of the spill to try and prevent something like this from happening again.
In hundreds of kilometers of pipeline, she said, spills are the exception, not the rule. A spill that occurred last year that involved the same company and 28,000 barrels of oil – one of the largest spills in Alberta’s history – is just finishing getting cleaned up now.
After a spill at the end of May, which the company didn’t know had occurred until they were informed by a competitor, NDP MLA Rachel Notley told CBC’s As It Happens that spills are a danger throughout the province and companies are currently being relied on to self monitor.
Monitoring is currently handled by the Energy Resources Conservation Board, which calls itself an “independent, quasi-judicial agency of the Government of Alberta.” The ERCB is responsible for regulating development of all of Alberta’s energy resources, of which the 392,000 kilometers of pipeline is just one element.
A dean of the University of Calgary’s business school told the Calgary Herald that the government needs to be building data to help them make decisions about how often inspections need to take place and when pipelines need to be retired. Meanwhile, the federal government is cutting jobs at Environment Canada and cutting the so-called red tape out of environmental assessment as well as pushing the Keystone XL Pipeline on the U.S. administration and the Northern Gateway Pipeline on First Nations groups in British Columbia.
What the actual environmental impact of this spill will remain to be seen, and the same can be said for the political impact.
Plainsview Midstream, the company responsible for the burst pipeline, regrets the incident.
Photo Credit: Premier of Alberta