July 26, 2011

Year After Oil Spill, Green Groups Urge Upton, Walberg to Put Residents First, End Attacks on EPA

Year After Oil Spill, Green Groups Urge Upton, Walberg
to Put Residents First, End Attacks on EPA

EPA is critical to protecting air, water and must be allowed to do its job

GALESBURG 26 July 2011 – Michigan’s top environmental groups today recognized the one-year mark of the massive oil spill in the Kalamazoo River by calling on Congressmen Fred Upton (R-St. Joseph) and Tim Walberg (R-Tipton) to do everything in their power to prevent future spills and support the Environmental Protection Agency in its mission to protect and clean up our water, air and land. Representatives of Clean Water Action, the Sierra Club and the National Wildlife Federation held a media event today at River Oaks County Park alongside a closed section of the Kalamazoo River that is still undergoing clean-up efforts.

"The fact of the matter is that Congressmen Upton and Walberg should know better than anyone in Congress that the EPA is critical to protecting the water we drink and the air that we breathe," said Cyndi Roper, Michigan director of Clean Water Action. "Instead, they are working to weaken the EPA at the expense of the public health. The oil spill last year left people ill, destroyed property values and damaged our natural resources in ways that will be felt for years to come. It is a devastating reminder that the EPA plays a critical role in protecting our land, air and water."

The oil spill spewed nearly 850,000 gallons of crude oil into the Kalamazoo Watershed. Clean up is still going on, with the river remaining closed to the public. The pipeline owned by Enbridge Inc. was transporting raw tar sands oil when it ruptured a year ago. Tar sands oil is also known as diluted bitumen, which is a highly corrosive, toxic and unstable blend of crude from Alberta, Canada. In a press call last held last week, the EPA revealed that heavy metals have been found in the Kalamazoo River, and that clean-up may take much longer than first anticipated.

Upton and Walberg voted on July 13 for H.R. 2018, legislation that threatens the water quality in our lakes and rivers and the safety of our drinking water sources. The legislation would roll back key enforcement provisions of the Clean Water Act, provisions that allow the EPA to act to protect our waters and our public health. H.R. 2018 passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 239 to 184. In addition to voting for the bill, Upton and Walberg voted against an amendment that would have ensured continued protection of municipal drinking water sources. In short, the bill would threaten the progress the nation has made since the 1972 Clean Water Act gave the federal government the primary role in cleaning up the nation’s waters.

"It’s difficult to imagine how the oil spill would have been managed without the EPA overseeing the cleanup," said Rita Chapman, the clean water program director for the Sierra Club Michigan Chapter. "As incomplete as the cleanup still is today, it would have been far worse without the EPA. People want our lakes and rivers to be safe for swimming, fishing and boating, and certainly we all expect to have clean sources of drinking water. It’s outrageous that Representatives Walberg and Upton would limit clean water protections, especially with the effects of last year’s oil spill still being felt so acutely by the very people they represent in Congress."

Upton, who chairs the House Energy and Commerce Committee, also is working to accelerate the construction of another tar sands pipeline that will run from Alberta, Canada, to the Gulf Coast – a span of more than 2,000 miles. TransCanada, a Canadian pipeline company, has proposed a pipeline called Keystone XL, which would carry up to 900,000 barrels per day of tar sands oil right through the Ogallala Aquifer and six American heartland states, including Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas.

"Before any pipeline project gains approval, like the Keystone XL, we need to fully understand what happened with the Enbridge tar sands pipeline and the dozens of other pipeline spills that have happened in the last year," said Beth Wallace, Community Outreach Regional Coordinator for the National Wildlife Federation’s Great Lakes Regional Center. "Congress needs to focus on increased pipeline safety to ensure that our communities, natural resources and wildlife will never face another oil spill disaster like the one in the Kalamazoo River. We call on Congressman Upton and Congressman Walberg to put the health and safety of Michigan residents first, rather than Big Oil special interests."