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Wednesday, 31 July 2013 09:18

Michigan Beer Company Legally Challenges Tar Sands Pipeline for Water Pollution

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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

kalamazoo7 31Enbridge Pipeline Kalamazoo River Tar Sands Oil SpillHow could Bell's Brewery, which claims to be the oldest and largest beer maker in Michigan, wound the tar sands pipeline industry (and other leak prone pipelines, which is almost all of them) with a lawsuit filed over clean-up measures related to the infamous 2010 Enbridge sludge oil spill (the largest of its kind to date in the US relating to tar sands oil)?

According to Clean Technica:

Before getting into the nitty-gritty of the lawsuit, let’s note for the record that the beer from Bell’s Brewery is not affected by the Enbridge Pipeline spill, since the company’s Comstock brewery uses the municipal water system. However, the company became concerned about the latest phase of Enbridge’s cleanup work, which involved constructing a facility to process dredged sediment a few hundred feet from the brewery.

In a statement issued on July 2, Larry Bell, President of Bell’s Brewery, explained:

“As Michigan’s oldest and largest brewery, Bell’s has a longstanding commitment to quality. While Bell’s uses water from the municipal water system to brew our beer, the pristine cleanliness of the water and air around our brewery and neighbors is of the utmost importance to us.”

Evidently Bell’s concerns were not addressed, because last week the company filed a lawsuit against Enbridge and CCP, the developer of the site where the pollution facility is being located, at Comstock Commerce Park. The facility will be used to process sediment dredged from a delta near Morrow Lake....

The Enbridge lawsuit brings attention to the entire oil pipeline safety issue, specifically related to the transportation of tar sands oil, and that’s probably the last thing that is wanted by TransCanada, the Canadian company that owns the proposed Keystone XL pipeline.

Like the Enbridge pipeline, the Keystone XL pipeline will carry a doctored form of tar sands oil called diluted bitumen, aka dilbit, and the Kalamazoo spill provides a textbook example of the difference between a dilbit spill and a conventional oil spill.

A conventional oil spill in a waterway is bad enough, but most of the oil rises to the surface where it can be contained by booms and skimmed off or soaked up. In contrast, dilbit sinks into the sediment.

If you like your beer without tar balls in them, then be concerned -- very concerned -- about this recent analysis from PEER (Protecting Employees Who Protect Our Enviromnment):

Only a small fraction of America’s vast network of natural gas and hazardous liquid pipelines has undergone any sort of inspection in recent years, including several hundred pipelines which have spilled or broken down, according to federal records displayed today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). As a result, the safety and reliability of much of this key but volatile transport grid remains unknown...

“At the current rate, most of our oil and gas pipeline network will not be inspected in this generation,” stated PEER Counsel Kathryn Douglass, noting that the present rate of less than one thousand federal and state inspections each year offers no hope of keeping pace. “Inspections are supposed to prevent damaging incidents but the main way pipeline deficiencies now become manifest is when ruptures or explosions make them obvious. This approach to pipeline safety is like searching for gas leaks with a lit candle.”

BuzzFlash at Truthout recently wrote about how protesters against Enbridge get arrested, but Enbridge gets a green light from the US government to build even more environmentally threatening pipelines.

As Clean Technica reports:

“The 162,000-168,000 gallons of oil that will remain in the river after th[e] dredging work is complete will not be able to be recovered right away without causing significant adverse impacts to the river. Instead, it must be carefully monitored and collected over time using traps that gather contaminated sediment. Future oil recovery will depend on whether the crude eventually moves to the areas with these sediment traps.”

Bell's Brewery may have the right idea: sue the tar sands oil pipeline industry until they give up and the CEO's and stockholders spend their days crying in their beer.

It it works -- which is a legal long shot -- the first pint will be on us.

(Photo: mic stolz)