About 50 miles off the coast of the Gulf of Mexico lies a little town called Beaumont, Texas. Being from Beaumont, I’ve always been proud of my East Texas roots, even when we’ve lacked environmental values. Our biggest claim to fame is oil. Oil is such a large part of Beaumont’s history, from the time we start school to the time we graduate, we learn about the Lucas Geyser that burst in early 1901 making Beaumont a booming oil town. Almost all pipelines lead to Southeast Texas. Half of the ten largest refineries in the United States are in Beaumont and the surrounding areas, so calling Beaumont oil country is not an understatement. Throughout my school years, many of classmates aspired to get a job in this industry, knowing they could make good money working at a refinery. Until I was about 7 I didn’t realize you could have any other job than that in the oil industry. Beaumont isn’t the only place oil comes from. Oil can be found throughout the U.S . That’s where pipelines come in.
Enbridge is one of the North America’s largest pipeline constructors. Starting in Canada and making their way south, many of their pipelines go through Illinois, our home. There’s no question that pipelines lead to excessive environmental destruction; extreme cases and countless others go unnoticed by the public.
What causes oil spills? There’s no one answer to that question. Aged pipelines, faulty equipment, human error to name a few reasons. Many oil spills are caused by oil pipelines being used past the lifespan of the materials. Internal and external corrosion of weak points in pipelines is also a big contributor to spills. It may not always be the people working on the pipelines or the equipment that cause the leaks; there have been cases of farm equipment puncturing pipelines which results in spills.
Enbridge is no stranger to oil spills. In 2010, an Enbridge pipeline spilled nearly 843,000 gallons of oil near Marshall, Michigan, which went from Talmadge Creek to the Kalamazoo River. The Kalamazoo River is a tributary of Lake Michigan; the Lake being avoided by a mere 80 river miles. Years after the spill, Enbridge was still cleaning up Talmadge Creek and the Kalamazoo River. Oil spills cause environmental damage for years and years after the initial spill. The Bakken Pipeline System is one of Enbridge’s proposed pipelines through Illinois. This is a two part pipeline combining the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) and the Energy Transfer Crude Oil Pipeline (ETCOP). DAPL has sparked controversy for its proposed route that goes through sacred burial grounds of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in North Dakota. This controversy in North Dakota seems to have eclipsed the termination point of the pipeline, Patoka, Illinois. DAPL will connect to ETCOP in Patoka and travel south to Texas. Both parts of the pipeline will transport around 470,000 barrels of crude oil each day. The Southern Access Extension Pipeline begins near Pontiac, Illinois terminating again in Patoka transporting nearly 300,000 barrels per day. While these pipelines will transport hundreds of thousands of barrels of oil each day, the social and environmental damages are too great to risk.