Fines for spills do not work on huge oil companies

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The June 1, 2010, Oil Price Daily News Update, reported, “Canadian pipeline company Enbridge is in the hot seat for an oil spill from a ruptured line in southern Michigan.”   Recently, it was reported that crews still are working to clean up that pipeline spill of about 20,000 barrels of tar sands oil into the Kalamazoo River.  
Oil from tar sands is heavier than water (API number of less than 10 degrees).  Early pictures of cleanup attempts on the Kalamazoo River showed the employment of booms suitable for skimming oil from the water’s surface, but useless for removing oil from the bottom of the river where tar sands oil goes.  
On March 29, a 20-inch buried Exxon pipeline burst under the small town of Mayfield, Ark., reportedly “turning backyards into tar pits and suburban streets into oil slicks.” According to Reuters, “A [Exxon] company spokesman confirmed the line was carrying Canadian Wabasca Heavy crude. That grade is a heavy bitumen crude diluted with lighter liquids to allow it to flow through pipelines, according to the Canadian Energy Pipeline Association (CEPA), which referred to Wabasca as "oil sands" in a report.”
The Arkansas pipeline spill was the second incident in a week where Canadian crude was spilled in the United States. Recently, a train carrying Canadian crude derailed in Minnesota, spilling 15,000 gallons of oil.
About a week ago, Exxon was fined $1.7 million over a 2011 spill in the Yellowstone River.  At this stage it appears that inept performance by oil companies is the primary barrier to development of Canadian tar sands.  Huge oil company profits permit them to dismiss as insignificant fines levied against them; fines do not work to cause them to adjust to protect people or the environment.
Sam Blankenship