Beyond Oil: Pipeline Safety Issues Highlighted in Bemidji

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In 1979, an oil pipeline rupture near Bemidji spilled over 450,000 gallons of crude. After the cleanup, nearly a quarter of the oil was still in the ground – and remains to this day.


State leaders from MN350 and Sierra Club, along with the Sierra Club’s Minnesota Environmental Justice Program, joined the Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN) and local residents on June 12 to view the location of the Pinewood oil spill, talk with scientists who are studying the effects of the oil left under the surface, and learn about the risks posed by these pipelines to people and the environment.

The day included a tour of other area sites, led by IEN Pipeline Organizer and North Star Chapter Executive Committee member Marty Cobenais. The group visited multiple locations of exposed pipeline dating back to 1949, as well as new lines crossing under the Mississippi River.

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The site visit spotlighted safety and environmental justice concerns relevant to the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, proposed by TransCanada to carry bitumen from Alberta to the Gulf Coast of Texas. Tar sands oil is far more toxic than conventional crude, containing elevated levels of many carcinogens. The proposed route would threaten drinking water supplies for millions of people; and the mining, processing and burning of tar sands is an especially potent source of carbon pollution.

Instead of locking the United States into dependence on hard-to-extract and destructive tar sands oil, we can break this addiction with 21st century transportation solutions. That’s why Sierrans in Minnesota and across the nation are working to advance world-class public transit, fuel-efficient vehicles, passenger rail, and safe pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure – changing paradigms and practices for how we build and rebuild our communities.

Join us to promote green, livable communities and reduce our impact on our air, water and climate! Learn more about the North Star Chapter’s work to advance Complete Streets, transit, and pedestrian-friendly communities; and check out the Sierra Club’s Beyond Oil Campaign for more green transportation solutions.


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