Sierra Club Sues U.S. Over Rubber Stamp of Flanagan South Pipeline

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[Washington, DC] Today the Sierra Club and National Wildlife Federation filed a lawsuit in federal district court in Washington D.C. challenging the approval of Enbridge’s Flanagan South tar sands pipeline by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and other federal agencies. According to the groups, federal agencies approved the pipeline without any environmental review or public notice required by federal law.

Flanagan South would transport 600,000 barrels of tar sands crude from Illinois to Oklahoma through thousands of waterways, communities, drinking water sources, and sensitive areas like wildlife refuges.

“The proposed pipeline would cut through some of America’s most iconic waters, including the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers,” said Jim Murphy, Senior Counsel for the National Wildlife Federation. “A spill would be devastating to wildlife like waterfowl and sturgeon that use these rivers. The extremes dangers tar sands poses need to be thoroughly examined before any decision about this pipeline is made.”

Enbridge is the company responsible for the largest ever oil spill on U.S. soil in 2010, when another of its pipelines spilled 840,000 gallons of heavy tar sands crude into the Kalamazoo River. Three years and one billion dollars in clean-up costs later, Enbridge has still not successfully removed all remaining tar sands from the river.

“This pipeline was rubber-stamped behind closed doors with no public involvement whatsoever,” said Doug Hayes, Sierra Club staff attorney. “Neither the Corps nor any other federal agency analyzed the risks of tar sands spills or the dismal safety record of Enbridge, as required by the National Environmental Policy Act.”

Despite Sierra Club’s repeated efforts to review even the most basic information about the proposed pipeline project, including Enbridge’s application materials, the Corps has refused to share them with the public. The Corps denied the Sierra Club’s multiple document requests under the Freedom of Information Act. Those denials are also challenged in this lawsuit.

“The Corps of Engineers is not above the law when it comes to approving tar sands pipelines,” says Hayes. “The federal government must evaluate the risk of spills, the threat to clean air and water, and the massive climate pollution, and it must let the public participate in decisions about this dangerous tar sands pipeline proposal.”

The purpose of this lawsuit is to force the Corps to consider the many environmental risks of this tar sands pipeline, which is nearly as big as the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, before it is allowed to be built.