John Bolenbaugh says he never set out to be a whistleblower. But he has, by accident he says, spent the past six years fighting Enbridge Inc. in the wake of the Kalamazoo oil spill from 2010. He is working to draw attention to what he alleges is a “cover up” by the company that allowed at least one million gallons of Alberta oil sands crude flow into a tributary of Michigan’s biggest river.
There is no disputing that the Enbridge spill was legion, and is still being contested even after a $177 million settlement was reached last summer. Michigan tribal nations are still pushing for more measures to be taken, according to Inside Climate News.
In the video below Bolenbaugh, who filed suit claiming he was fired from his oil-cleanup job for trying to expose the shoddy work being overseen by the Canadian oil giant, talks about his journey. (It is important to note that in 2010 he revealed that he carries the stigma of having had to register as a sex offender for a liaison he had at age 26 with a pair of teens who he said lied about their ages. At the time, he said he volunteered the information before it could be used against him by his opponents.)
He has catalogued on his website claims of death threats, slashed tires and other targeted harassment since he began his relentless campaign of documenting pollution from various oil spills. His evidence in many cases speaks for itself—not in terms of a cover-up per se, but in terms of the lack of true environmental oversight, and the enormous latitude that oil conglomerates seem to have in playing fast and loose with America’s drinking water.
As anti-pipeline fights erupt throughout Turtle Island, one element has stood out, and that is the lack of trust that people have for the huge corporations that are proposing pipelines and other developments on their lands. Though Bolenbaugh does not give the names of people or weave all that much context into the disturbing shots in videos posted to his YouTube channel, his images are stark and compelling. Regardless of his methodology, he has brought to light scenes to which we are not often exposed.
(Note: In the video, he says that Democracy Now anchor Amy Goodman was charged with a felony. However, her charges were changed from misdemeanor trespass to starting a riot. They were thrown out when a judge refused to sign the order, which means they were never actually filed.)