The Alliance for the Great Lakes is raising the alarm over plans to ship tar sands crude oil on the Great Lakes.
"As tar sands crude spill cleanups have proved particularly problematic, a cleanup of a deep-water tar sands crude spill in the Great Lakes would present new and extraordinary challenges. With the amount of tar sands crude shipped on the Great Lakes by vessel poised to expand as early as 2015, the Great Lakes will soon face a new threat that poses a substantial risk to their future," says the Chicago-based group in a new report, "Oil and Water: Tar Sands Crude Shipping
Meets the Great Lakes?
In addition to supporting fisheries and tourism, many cities get their drinking water from the Great Lakes. For, example Chicago's Bureau of Water Supply provides just under one billion gallons of water a day to Chicago and neighboring suburban communities from Lake Michigan.
"Already, plans are in the works to dramatically increase the flow of tar sands crude to the Midwest as early as next year, the group said. It said permitting is sought for a $25 million loading dock on Lake Superior to ship the crude in 2015; and a tar sands shipping route has been mapped across the waters of the Great Lakes. A hearing will be held next Tuesday on the proposal in Superior, Wisc
. The group said Elkhorn Industries is working with Superior Calumet Refinery in an effort to build an oil shipping terminal at Connors Point in Superior.
“We're at a crossroads now, with companies starting to seek permits for new oil terminals,” says Lyman Welch, director of the Alliance’s Water Quality Program and the report’s lead author. “Before our region starts sinking money into shipping terminals for the Great Lakes, our task should be to ask ‘if’ rather than ‘when.’”
The Alliance said, "Western Michigan residents learned firsthand the risk of mixing tar sands oil with water in 2010 after a cataclysmic pipeline spill in the Kalamazoo River. Three years and $1 billion-plus worth of cleanup later, more than 20 percent of the oil spill remains at the bottom of the river: a heavy, viscous muck synonymous with this form of crude oil."
Among the report's recommendations are that the U.S. improve coordination among federal agencies involved in large-scale spill prevention and response, with a special emphasis on tar sands crude and other “submerged” oil spills. The report also calls on Congress to increase funding for prevention, preparedness and response programs, and on Great Lakes states to expand and enhance state laws to prevent and better protect their shorelines from oil-shipping spills.