Why would Canada allow two more major tar sands pipelines to be built, when leaks in the existing pipelines are already threatening people and wildlife?
Wikipedia defines criminal negligence as “a ‘misfeasance or ‘nonfeasance’ … where the fault lies in the failure to foresee and so allow otherwise avoidable dangers to manifest.”
This week in DeSmogBlog, Emma Pullman describes a situation that seems to fit the definition.
A 2007 report by the Alberta Energy Utilities Board on pipeline performance found that between 1990 and 2005, there were nearly 5,000 pipeline releases of hydrocarbon liquids. 4,717 spills released less than 1,000 litres of oil, 46 released between 100,000 litres and 1 million litres, and 6 released between 1 million and 10 million litres.
In 1970, for example, a massive break in a Great Canadian Oil Sands Ltd. (now Suncor) pipeline in northern Alberta caused nearly 190,000 litres of synthetic crude to pump into the Athabasca River.
Then, that same year, two separate pipeline ruptures released 158,000 litres of crude into Freeman River and Lake. In 1971, Imperial Oil was responsible for a 4.5 million litre spill west of Edmonton. Two years later, a Gulf Alberta pipeline burst near Camrose spilled roughly 1.1 million litres of crude oil. Through the latter part of the 1970s, a series of spills ravaged Alberta including an Interprovincial Pipeline Company leak in Killam, Alberta that spilled 3 million litres of oil.
Alberta’s pipelines are particularly prone to leak. A 2011 report from the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) noted that Alberta has suffered 218 spills greater than 100 litres per 10,000 miles of pipeline caused by internal corrosion from 2002 to 2010, compared to the rate of 13.6 spills greater than 100 litres per 10,000 miles of pipeline from internal corrosion reported in the United States.
Wikipedia says that “criminal negligence” becomes “gross criminal negligence” when the failure to foresee involves a “wanton disregard for human life.” It’s hard to imagine why that term wouldn’t apply to the executives of an industry that’s responsible for 5,000 oil spills in 15 years — close to one spill every day.