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Letter: Consider the potential impacts of an oil spill

We are told by our community leaders and Enbridge that the proposed Sandpiper pipeline will generate tax revenue and bring jobs. We already know the jobs are temporary and will mostly be filled by out-of-state workers. Let’s consider the potential economic impacts of a spill and see if this is such a good deal.

First, realize that all pipelines leak. Between 2002 and 2011, there were more than 3,700 pipeline spills in the U.S. Note that this pipeline crosses the Mississippi River, which then flows through Beltrami County. Consider what the effect of a major oil spill near the Mississippi River would have on this pristine section of river as well as the lakes and communities downstream.

Since these shoreland owners can no longer enjoy the water-based activities they once could, due to their now polluted river and lakes, it would not take long for their property’s values to plummet. How would you like to buy property on oil-fouled water that is now off-limits to fishing, swimming, waterskiing, etc.? Assuming a 10 to 40 percent reduction in property values (as a 2013 study completed by CRED — Conversations for a Responsible Economic Development — found), this would also represent a sizable loss of tax revenue each year paid to Beltrami County. In addition, consider a spill’s impact to the significant tourist revenue brought into the county each year.

And if the contamination got into our highly susceptible groundwater, the economic costs to our community’s residents, businesses and agriculture would be permanent. In Michigan, where one of Enbridge’s pipelines ruptured in 2010, the company ended up buying over 150 homes directly impacted by the oil-fouled Kalamazoo River, that the company is still attempting to clean up after 20,000 barrels of tar sands oil spilled into a tributary. Immediately following the spill, people living near the Kalamazoo River started reporting “strong, noxious odors and associated health symptoms” to their local public health departments.

One final note from the CRED report, “Even if houses aren’t directly damaged, the stigma and perception that the next incident could affect them is significant.” Another analysis from Western Washington University notes that a home’s value “is negatively affected by proximity to a petroleum pipeline.”

There exists much better alternative routes for this pipeline that do not compromise our vulnerable lake country. Let’s keep the lakes and loons and let’s stop the lunacy.

Jeff Mosner

Park Rapids