Two days ago an episode on the CBC TV news program, The National, covered a 2010 spill from an Enbridge pipeline into the Kalamazoo River in Michigan. The episode was introduced by a short excerpt referring to the spill. In this excerpt a retired family doctor in the area of the spill commented that “we need the energy and Enbridge has been fair”. This introduction flatters Enbridge, which had to be coerced by the US Environmental Protection Agency into an extensive cleanup that is still going on three years later.
Peter Mansbridge introduced the story by referring to a map showing the Enbridge pipeline and the location of the spill. He explained that the pipeline was carrying Canadian crude. Since August 25, the words “Canadian crude” are the new fossil fuel industry “code” for tar sands oil, or bitumen.
The CBC Environment Unit covered the Kalamazoo spill for CBC News three days before The National episode. That coverage correctly identified the spilled commodity as bitumen. The lengthy story did not use the descriptor Canadian crude once!
A common abbreviation is “Dilbit”, standing for “diluted bitumen”, as chemicals must be added to bitumen to render it sufficiently fluid to be transported by pipeline. Dilbit is a much more difficult commodity to clean up. The Kalamazoo dilbit sank to the bottom of the river where it can only be removed by dredging. The family doctor and Enbridge think it should stay there, releasing oil sheen from time to time. The EPA thinks that dredging is necessary, and that is what is happening now.
The National News episode concluded with a repeat of the kind words of the family doctor. Very timely coverage for Enbridge who is now facing a revolt from Ontario residents who will be affected by the extension of this pipeline through to Montreal. Read our blog the Risks of Line 9.