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July 23, 2013

Nobody Extracting Tar Sands Has Any Idea How to Clean Them Up

Last week, it was confirmed that there have been four recent tar sands oil spill sites identified in Alberta, Canada, with some containing leaks that have been spewing toxic oil as long as six weeks -- all while the oil company in charge has proven totally unable to stop or clean up the spills.

While the company overseeing tar sands extraction at the spill site -- Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. -- says everything is under control, a government scientist provided pictures and documents showing that the problem is ongoing.

The scientist, who chose to go unnamed due to fear of losing his or her job, told The Toronto Star that the operation was in chaos:

"Everybody (at the company and in government) is freaking out about this [...] We don't understand what happened. Nobody really understands how to stop it from leaking, or if they do they haven't put the measures into place.”

The reports of out-of-control leaks come after a series of catastrophes involving the transportation of tar sands. In 2010, a tar sands pipeline in Michigan ruptured and spilled more than a million gallons into the Kalamazoo river, causing the largest on-land oil spill in U.S. history. Earlier this year, another pipeline burst in Mayflower, Arkansas, pumping tar sands into suburban streets and yards. And in its first year of operation, the first version of the Keystone pipeline leaked 12 times in 12 months.

Meanwhile, Big Oil is preparing an unprecedented public relations advertising push in support of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline -- a project that would only expedite development of this volatile tar sands fuels in Alberta and then pump the highly toxic fuel across the United States to export terminals in the Southeast. In other words, tar sands companies are spending millions to increase the development of a fuel they cannot figure out how to safely transport or clean up.

It's a question of priorities, and Big Oil’s got them all wrong.

--Lauren Lantry, Sierra Club Media Team


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