Why We Must Stop the Flow of Tar Sands Oil

This dirty, dangerous oil, which is almost impossible to clean and affects the health of people, is bad news for our country—and the planet.

The following is a transcript of the video.

Anthony Swift, director, NRDC Canada Project: So right now, about two million barrels a day of tar sands oil is getting into the U.S., and most of it is coming in via pipelines.

The Canadian oil industry has plans to nearly double the amount of tar sands coming into the U.S.—by tanker, by barge, by rail, and by pipeline. These plans would be catastrophic for communities across the country, would increase the risks of tar sands pipeline spills and tar sands by rail spills.

We've seen even in our current situation over 400 spills on our pipeline system every year. That's over a spill a day.

Oil spills are always bad news, but many people don't realize that tar sand spills are even worse. When tar sands is spilled in water bodies, it will sink. Take, for example, in 2010, a pipeline ruptured and spilled a million gallons of tar sands into the Kalamazoo River.

Our responders found they didn't have the tools to clean or contain that spill, and the end result was a cleanup that cost over $1 billion, and over 40 miles of the river is still contaminated with tar sands, nearly six years after the spill.

Tar sands oil is some of the dirtiest oil in the world. One of the byproducts is petcoke, or petroleum coke. It's a coal-like substance that builds up in piles in refineries that process tar sands, and those petcoke piles pose major health risks to the communities that surround them.

We're finding tar sands also produces air pollution, which increases incidences of respiratory illnesses and asthma in communities that live around these tar sand refineries.

No matter what Big Oil says, the United States does not need more tar sands. Neither does Canada.

And you know, we've got new solutions that are cleaner for our communities and better for our climate.

If the public rallies together, we can stop these dangerous, dirty projects, and protect our future for decades to come.

NRDC in Action

For more than a decade, NRDC has worked with indigenous communities in Alberta, U.S.-based grassroots groups, and intergovernmental bodies to halt the expansion of dirty tar sands oil.

Midwest Dispatch

The Line 3 pipeline project has kept a low profile, but the stakes couldn’t be higher for the indigenous communities it threatens—and our climate.

Policy Primer

Yes, Trump has green-lighted the controversial Keystone XL pipeline. But Nebraska’s got a slew of public hearings on the calendar, and legal challenges loom large.

onEarth Story

The strong, erratic currents of the Straits of Mackinac could make an oil spill disastrous for two lakes and a whole lot of coastline.

Action Figure

The founder of Bold Nebraska has led the Cornhusker State’s years-long rallying cry against TransCanada’s tar sands pipeline.

onEarth Story

Trump rolls back fuel efficiency standards while his EPA chief celebrates the country’s clean air (achieved by past administrations).


How a single pipeline project became the epicenter of an enormous environmental battle

Midwest Dispatch

Meet some of the people who are striving to stop TransCanada’s dirty tar sands oil pipeline once and for all.

On Location

Residents of coastal Maine speak out against the dangerous transport of Canada’s tar sands oil through U.S. waters.

Personal Action

Are you one of the 25 million Americans who live along a crude-by-rail route? Here's how to find out and what you can do about it.

NRDC in Action

For more than a decade, we've fought to keep this filthy fossil fuel from being dredged up and piped through the United States.

onEarth Story

In Donald Trump’s war on the environment, Americans’ complacency is his greatest ally.

onEarth Story

Five years ago, a pipeline spilled a million gallons of tar sands crude into a Michigan river—and we’re still cleaning it up.

onEarth Story

A new study finds that even small smudges of oil can have huge impacts on flight and a bird’s energy budget.


Tar sands oil is harder to clean up than conventional crude. Here are the reasons why.

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