Pipeline Woes

PC: J.B. Weir

The Governors of Alabama and Georgia have both declared a state of emergency following a pipeline spill near Pelham, AL fearing for both the economic and environmental impacts on the region. The executive orders, which focus primarily on truck drivers, would allow them to temporarily exceed maximum hour limits established by the U.S. Department of Transportation in order to prevent gasoline outages.

A spokesman for Colonial Pipeline estimates that over 336,000 gallons, approximately 8,000 barrels, of gasoline have been spilled in Shelby County, AL, just south of the Birmingham metropolitan area.

The story has yet to see major national news coverage and there have been minimal inquiries as to how the environment will be affected. The U.S. EPA personnel at the site of the spill in Shelby County say local residents are not in danger, and the spilled gasoline appears to be contained at the site and unlikely to enter the nearby Cahaba River; however, what if things were to get out of hand?

With this oil spill, Alabama came very close to, and still teeters on the edge of, environmental disaster. The Cahaba River is the longest substantially free-flowing river in Alabama — a state famed for its water resources — and is among the most scenic and biologically diverse rivers in the United States; it is home to many endangered and sensitive species that could easily go extinct if gasoline contaminates the river.

With the question of contamination in mind and knowing the delicate situation these toxic fuels present, we should be asking ourselves, “Why do Americans continue to use fossil fuels that are disastrous to the environment both in their transportation and use?”

America is one of the most advanced countries on Earth and it arguably has the workforce available to extend and use renewable energy as its sole source of energy; however, oil and gas industries have continued to dominate energy production. According to Opensecrets.org, Koch Industries alone has donated $9,009,030 to Republican and conservative groups. Koch Industries is not the only corporation making large campaign contributions from the oil and gas sector. In total, the oil and gas sector has given $71,906,957 for the 2016 campaign cycle alone — and it’s not just to Republicans. 10% of the total contributions have gone to Democrats. $526,828 has gone to Hillary Clinton and over $2,770,781 has gone to Congressional Democrats.

It’s no surprise that thousands of Native Americans and their allies as far away as South America have been protesting the construction of another ecological time bomb. The Dakota Access Pipeline would transfer crude oil from the North Dakota Bakken region through South Dakota and Iowa into Illinois, and has been met with strife in North Dakota.

Presidential candidate Dr. Jill Stein of the Green Party, former presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, and Representative Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) are notable politicians who are joining voices with the native protesters in their fight against the destruction of their native lands for the construction of the pipeline.

Hopefully, those in North Dakota will be spared a similar fate to those in the southeast.