Keepers of the Athabasca response to major oil spills in Alberta
Two major oil spills have occurred recently in Alberta, one near Red Deer and the other near Rainbow Lake. Both raise serious issues about pipeline safety and harm to the environment, human health and traditional ways of life.
The Keepers of the Athabasca stand in solidarity with everyone who has been negatively affected by these spills, and finds the provincial government’s response too little too late.
The Red Deer River spill garnered a great deal of local and national media coverage, including a press conference with Alberta Premier Alison Redford on the site of a reservoir upstream of the City of Red Deer in which she tried to reassure Albertans that the spill was “an exception,” that Alberta has strong regulations to prevent pipeline breaks, and that the government has the matter in hand, despite the fact that the operator of the pipeline, Plains Midstream Canada, also operates the Rainbow pipeline, which spilled 28,000 barrels of oil northeast of Peace River in April 2011.
But another major spill occurred a month earlier near Rainbow Lake in northwestern Alberta, and the response was much more muted. The media and public focus more attention on spills in easily accessible locations where drinking water systems are at risk, while they tend to ignore the many spills on rural and aboriginal lands where sensitive ecosystems, plants and animals are affected, as well as traditional livelihoods.
The Keepers of the Athabasca want to bring attention to the great damage done to traditional lands by pipeline spills. Keepers’ Coordinator Jesse Cardinal states, “The indigenous people of the North honour the two legged, four legged, winged and swimmers.” Keepers’ Chair Roland Woodward adds, “They all have value in our world and all co-exist. When the spill occurred near Rainbow Lake, the Dene in the North West Territories were worried not only about the toxics flowing downstream toward them, but also about the animal and plant health being affected. ANIMALS CAN EXIST WITHOUT PEOPLE. PEOPLE CANNOT EXIST WITHOUT ANIMALS AND OTHER LIFE.
In light of the number and seriousness of pipeline spills in Alberta, and the ageing pipeline infrastructure, The Keepers of the Athabasca are calling for a halt to new pipeline construction until an independent review of pipeline safety in Alberta is conducted by an arms-length organization that will also make recommendations for strengthening pipelines regulation and enforcement. Otherwise, we will continue to see more “death by a thousand spills.”
For more information please contact:
Jesse Cardinal; Coordinator, Keepers of the Athabasca 780-404-5315
Roland Woodward; Chair, Keepers of the Athabasca 780-972-1339