After Oil Spills in Michigan and the Gulf, Will Washington Act?
Our sister publication, The Michigan Messenger, has been doing some great reporting on a massive oil spill along the Kalamazoo River in Calhoun County, Mich., caused by a broken underground pipeline.
While the story is still developing, there are already a number of parallels between this spill in Michigan and the Gulf oil spill. The Messenger’s Ed Brayton reports that — sound familiar? — reporters are being denied access to the spill site. And Todd Heywood notes, “As in the early days of the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, estimates of the amount of oil released vary, with the company claiming a lower number than the government.”
Going forward, the question is this: will a spill like this, on top of the disaster in the Gulf, push national lawmakers to act? The Michigan spill has already received attention from members of Congress and from the White House — people who aren’t happy with oil industry to begin with. Offshore drilling policies are in the process of being revamped as a result of the Gulf spill. Will policymakers now lump in measures on oil pipeline safety?
For proponents of a proposed pipeline that will bring oil from Canada to Texas, the spill could not come at a worse time. The New York Times reported yesterday that the State Department is delaying its decision on whether to permit the pipeline in order to get more input from other federal agencies. While the decision appears to have little, if anything, to do with the Michigan spill, the Environmental Protection Agency has raised significant concerns about the environmental impacts of the pipeline.
According to The New York Times article:
Among the issues highlighted, the E.P.A. questioned whether the department’s draft analysis had adequately accounted for the project’s impact on air quality and climate change, whether enough planning was in place for oil spills, and whether the effect on wetlands and birds had been thoroughly researched.