Alberta Oil Spills: A Look Over 37 Years By Global News

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Alberta has had an average of two crude oil spills a day, every day, for the past 37 years, according to a report by Leslie Young at Global News.

The news agency dug up figures, deciphered trends and built an informative, and sometimes shocking, interactive online piece that puts Alberta's pipeline reality in sharp and thought-provoking focus.

Click here to go to the Global News report

Global News chronicled the number and severity of spills in the province going back almost four decades using figures from Energy Resources Conservation Board.

The number of oil spills, leaks and other unintentional releases by the oil and gas industry have been on the decline for the past decade, according to the ERCB.

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However, the database is missing information in many places, and doesn't include any spills from some of the the biggest pipelines that fall under the National Energy Board jurisdiction, Young reports. Additionally, spills under 2,000 litres are not counted.

The safety of Alberta's pipelines have been under heavy scrutiny in recent years, and is being closely examined as TransCanada's Keystone XL pipeline awaits approval from the United States.

The Energy Resources Conservation Board also took action against Plains Mainstream Canada earlier this year, for a spill in April 2011 that caused 4.5 million litres of oil to spill onto land.

The Global News investigation took 11 months and began right after 475,000 litres of oil leaked into the Red Deer River in June of 2012.

A reporter heard a radio commentator talking about the spill casually mention that "this sort of thing happens all the time," and Global News decided to investigate just how common such incidents were.

The process included gathering hundreds of printed records, negotiating rates for documents received under Freedom of Information requests and gathering maps and stories of where oil spills occurred.

Alberta has more than 400,000 kilometres of provincially regulated oil and natural gas lines — many of them up to 40 or 50 years old. There are also federally regulated pipelines that cross provincial boundaries or the U.S. border.

Last fall, the Alberta government said it wanted to broaden the safety review to include input from the public.

The government has yet to share the information with the public and has faced criticism from the NDP for not releasing the long overdue report.

Readers can find information on every oil spill of crude oil, crude bitumen and synthetic crude since 1975 at an interactive map at Global News.

With files from The Canadian Press

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