When news broke this week of an ongoing tar sands spill in Alberta, Canada, many were shocked to read this statement from an unnamed involved government scientist:
"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."
For Crystal Lameman, a member of the Beaver Lake Cree Nation, which is near the spill, equally unsettling is the response she's received thus far from inside sources about how the spill will be handled.
"They're telling me, 'We're going to let nature run its course,'" says Crystal, who's also the Alberta climate and energy campaigner for Sierra Club Canada's Prairie Chapter. "This really baffles and disturbs me, because this is not what Mother Nature does. This is all man-made -- it's got nothing to do with nature."
According to the unnamed government scientist, the spill has been happening for at least six weeks:
Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. has been unable to stop an underground oil blowout that has killed numerous animals and contaminated a lake, forest, and muskeg at its operations in Cold Lake, Alta. The documents indicate that, since cleanup started in May, some 26,000 barrels of bitumen mixed with surface water have been removed, including more than 4,500 barrels of bitumen.
No one from the outside, including Crystal and other local Creek Nation members whose land borders the spill, has been allowed to see the damage or learn much more about it.
"They don't want us to see what's going on in there. This is not just another oil spill. However disturbing and sad it sounds, we've gotten used to pipeline spills here. But this is not a normal pipeline spill. Bitumen does not just explode underground."
As the U.S. and Canadian governments continue to push for tar sands expansion and new pipelines to transport tar sands crude across the countries, we must remember these spills. Even government officials are saying they have no idea how to clean up these spills from a process that oil companies say is supposedly more "environmentally friendly."
"I know for a fact that the cleanup crews (in this latest spill) were wearing waders because the oil was so deep -- the bitumen mess was so deep," says Crystal.
"This was bound to happen. This is why Keystone XL must not go through. We need people to speak up to their governments -- U.S. and Canadian -- and hold them accountable."
We must continue to speak up with our brothers and sisters of the Bear Lake Cree Nation, with all the First Nations, and with all the communities across the U.S. and Canada affected by tar sands. (Watch Crystal's powerful "Forward on Climate" rally speech about Keystone XL and Alberta's tar sands destruction.)
Disasters like the one in Alberta will keep happening for as long as we are chained to dirty fuels. They are poisoning our air, our water, and our communities' health. Pushing for tar sands development means committing to a massive increase in climate-disrupting pollution.
Like the tars sands bitumen disaster in Alberta, it's not natural and needs to stop. Send a message to the State Department and demand that its Keystone XL report reflect the truth: This pipeline would be a disaster for the climate.