11 • 30 • 2016

Surfrider’s Statement on Oil and Gas Pipelines in the U.S.

By Pete Stauffer

Oil and gas pipelines have been a hot topic in the news lately with both the Dakota Access Pipeline protest and Keystone XL garnering national attention. Yet, the problem regrettably runs much deeper than just these two ill-advised projects.

Our nation’s vast (and poorly maintained) networks of oil and gas pipelines are causing major impacts to natural resources and communities across the U.S. In particular, our watersheds, shorelines, lakes, and ocean are regularly polluted by an often negligent industry. Since 2010, over 3,300 incidents of leaks or ruptures have occurred, with U.S. pipelines releasing over 7 million gallons of crude oil along with toxic, polluting chemicals into the local environment.

The Surfrider Foundation is opposed to expanded oil and gas operations in the U.S. that will damage our nation's waters and coasts and contribute to global climate change. We stand with communities and tribes across the U.S. who are fighting such projects. We also support improved safety for existing operations including regular maintenance, spill prevention, and disaster preparedness.

Along with many communities across the U.S. that are fighting to protect their lands and waters, such as the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in North Dakota, the Surfrider Foundation is proud to participate in the global movement to oppose new oil and gas development and support the transition towards renewable energy sources and conservation.

In the Great Lakes region, which represents 20 percent of the world’s fresh surface water, the Surfrider Foundation Great Lakes chapters (Chicago, Milwaukee and Lake Michigan) are part of the coalition, Oil and Water Don’t Mix, fighting to shut down Enbridge’s Line 5 at the Straits of Mackinac, which conveys approximately 23 million gallons of oil each day. The pipelines operated by Enbridge Energy, known as Line 5, were built to last about 50 years. That was 63 years ago. Since 1999, millions of gallons of oil have been spilled from Enbridge pipelines, including a 226,000 gallon spill in Crystal Falls, MI and a 1 million gallon spill on the Kalamazoo River. A number of groups contend that the pipelines, as currently operating, are not in compliance with the easement agreement for the section that crosses the Straits. There is no question that an oil spill in the Straits of Mackinac would be disastrous. For more information, visit

In California, Surfrider's San Luis Obispo Chapter is fighting a dangerous project to bring crude oil by rail from Canada across the U.S. and to the Phillips 66 refinery from the north, which passes over Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve and State Marine Reserve, or from the south, which follows the coastline from Ventura northward. The EIR has identified 11 significant and unavoidable impacts associated with this project, including impacts to biological resources along the rail line due to an oil spill. So far, the chapter and coalition organizations have been successful in stopping the project at the local level with a denial by the Planning Commission. However, Phillips 66 recently sued the County for denial of their permits, bringing the issue to court in a premature fashion. Phillips 66 has proposed to bring a mile long oil tanker train through the coastal zone and the County at least three times a week for the next 20 years, each train carrying 2.4 million gallons of flammable, explosive petroleum.  This type of crude oil from Canada is known for being the dirtiest on earth. The project constitutes a major threat to coastal resources and to many millions of people living and working in areas across California and the nation within what would be the “blast zone” in the instance of an oil train derailment. For more information, visit

In Washington state, Surfrider is fighting two proposed massive crude oil export terminals, one within Gray's Harbor, and another on the banks of the Columbia River within the City of Vancouver as part of a large coalition of partners and community members. The Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) was just completed for the proposed Grays Harbor project in which our members and chapters raised our concerns about the threats to the ocean, waves and beaches with a major oil spill associated with these projects, the project is now seeking local permits and we are challenging them every step of the way. Surfrider anticipates that the Vancouver project will be decided on in the near future, and we will be calling on Governor Jay Inslee to do the right thing and make the only defensible decision, which is to deny the project.  For more detailed information check out the Washington Chapters website.

For more information about Surfrider's active campaigns, visit