WASHINGTON - A report released in late February, around the seven-month anniversary of the 843,000-gallon oil spill that contaminated the Kalamazoo River, cites the type of oil that was running through the ruptured Enbridge oil pipeline.
The report, "Tar Sands Pipeline Safety Risks," was prepared in a collaborative effort of the Natural Resources Defense Council, the National Wildlife Federation, the Pipeline Safety Trust and the Sierra Club.
"When the spill happened and we realized it was tar sand oil, we saw there were questions that no one had clearly answered," said Susan Casey-Lefkowitz, international program director for the Natural Resources Defense Council. She is one of the report's authors.
"We decided it was time to do a technical, in-depth research study," Casey-Lefkowitz said. "After several months of research and lots of technical review, we put it all together in the report."
The report says it could be more dangerous to transport tar sands oil (the type that was flowing through Enbridge Line 6B on July 25, when the rupture occurred) than other forms of crude oil.
On the day in question, the oil flowing through the pipeline was a mix of a relatively raw tar sands oil and liquid natural gas, called "dilbit," short for diluted bitumen, according to the report.
"Dilbit is actually more corrosive (than typical crude oil)," Casey-Lefkowitz said. "It causes more spills. It's a dangerous substance that we're not really regulating in the United States."
The federal government regulates pipelines through the Department of Transportation's Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration. Currently, PHMSA does not differentiate between crude oil and tar sands oil, Casey-Lefkowitz said.
Enbridge spokeswoman Lorraine Grymala said there's no need for different regulations for the tar sands oil.