Reilly Forum - "Life Amongst the 'Tar Sands’ Oil Pipelines: Impacts on Rural Communities and the Environment"


Location: Eck Visitors Center / Alumni Association – Auditorium (View on map )

News agencies around the world have provided in-depth coverage of the controversial proposed Keystone Pipeline "tar sands" oil project, but few people have heard of the "tar sands" pipelines that are right here in Michiana. Learn more about the Michiana pipeline at this panel discussion followed by Q&A. 

Cleanup of the spill has been complicated by the fact that a significant fraction of the dilbit sank in the river water, contaminating the riverbed and making cleanup difficult.  Cleanup activities are ongoing but have failed to meet EPA’s required completion date. In July 2010, a pipeline ruptured spilling over 800,000 US gallons of ‘dilbit’ oil into Talmadge Creek, a tributary to the Kalamazoo River in Southwestern Michigan. The burst pipeline, 6B, is operated by the Canadian corporation Enbridge, Inc. and was carrying diluted bitumen (dilbit), a heavy crude oil from Canada’s Athabasca Tar Sands. This was the largest on-land oil spill to date in North America. 

Because of the spill, plans were rapidly made to "replace" line 6B with a new, larger diameter pipeline, while leaving the old pipeline in place but decommissioned.  Despite Enbridge’s claims of excellent relationships with local communities, many homeowners and townships along this "replacement" project have experienced substantial problems including:

  • The problems with Line 6B also sparked concerns for an aging Enbridge pipeline beneath the Straits of Mackinac in Lake Michigan, especially when Enbridge unilaterally increased pressure within the pipeline while bypassing environmental permitting.all-night noise
  • broken water and sewage mains
  • construction within feet of a home
  • arbitrary and incorrect reporting to the IRS. 

Four experts will present on various aspects of the Enbridge pipelines and then take questions from the audience.

The ecological ramifications of the Kalamazoo River spill

Dr. Stephen Hamilton, professor of Ecosystem Ecology and Biogeochemistry at Michigan State University and the W.K. Kellogg Biological Station.

Problems encountered by local homeowners and communities along the project

Dr. Patricia Maurice, professor in the Notre Dame Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Earth Sciences, and also a homeowner along the Line 6B replacement project.

The role (or lack thereof) of government environmental and regulatory agencies in pipeline oversight

Dr. Jeff Insko, an English professor and coordinator of American Studies at Oakland University in Michigan, who is also a homeowner along Line 6B, director of the Line 6B Concerned Citizens’ Blog, and a member of the Board of Directors for the Pipeline Safety Trust.

Concerns for the Great Lakes 

Beth Wallace, Community Outreach Regional Coordinator for the Great Lakes Regional Center of the National Wildlife Federation and a Pipeline Safety Trust board member. She will show highlights of a film documenting problems with the pipeline beneath the Straits of Mackinac.

This event is free and open to the public.

Co-sponsors for this Reilly Forum event are Notre Dame's Law School, the Center for Sustainable Energy at Notre Dame (cSEND), and GLOBES an interdisciplinary graduate training program in environment and society