Alliance to Congress: Oil and Water Don’t Mix

February 15, 2017

In its 2017 Great Lakes Action Agenda, the Alliance outlines its concerns about oil transport through the region and the need to keep crude oil off the lakes. Our agenda summarized our key federal priorities and clear action steps for lawmakers to take to protect the lakes.

The Great Lakes are a global hub of oil refining. If market conditions improve or tax incentives make it economically advantageous, crude oil production in Canada and North Dakota could expand. This will mean greater volumes of crude moving through the Great Lakes region from Superior, Wisconsin, the place where pipelines currently enter the region.

To get this crude oil to market, companies may seek new modes of moving it via rail, pipeline and even by ships on the Great Lakes.

State and federal leaders agree—the risk is too great

The U.S. Coast Guard acknowledges that there is currently no way to clean up an open-water spill of crude oil. As a result, it is not possible to ship tar sands crude safely by vessel on the Great Lakes.

The region experienced firsthand the hazards of a crude oil spill in 2010. A catastrophic pipeline spill in Michigan’s Kalamazoo River left more than 20 percent of the oil at the bottom of the river, despite more than $1 billion spent on cleanup.

In late 2013, a company applied for a permit to build a transfer facility in Superior, Wisconsin. This would have allowed the loading of heavy crude oil onto vessels for shipment through the Great Lakes. The state of Wisconsin denied that permit and required a complete environmental assessment should the company wish to re-apply.

2017 Great Lakes Action Agenda – Crude Oil Priorities

Great Lakes members of Congress should support a ban on the movement of crude oil by vessel on the Great Lakes and should support efforts to improve regulations of oil transport by rail and pipeline to ensure that communities are protected.