A group calling itself People Enbridge Ruined in Michigan has claimed responsibility for an elaborate hoax that made it appear that the oil pipeline company Enbridge is planning to use human hair to clean up spills.
In a news release issued this evening (March 15), PERM says it put together the “cockamamie” MyHairCares campaign—which included fake websites, press releases, and a video—with the help of the Yes Men, a group of internationally known activists known for using satire.
“This was a funny way to dramatize the fact that neither Enbridge nor any other oil company can prevent spills, and that they basically have no cleanup plan,” Shannon McPhail, the Smithers-based Canadian spokesperson for PERM, is quoted as saying in the release. “What’s happening in Michigan proves that.”
In July 2010, oil from an Enbridge pipeline spilled into the Kalamazoo River in Michigan.
In B.C., the Calgary-based company is proposing to build 1,200-kilometre twin pipelines from the Alberta tar sands to Kitimat as part of its Northern Gateway project.
Spoof websites describing the fake MyHairCares initiative state that Enbridge expects to turn 450,000 pounds of hair from salons across North America into “super-absorbent hair booms”.
“When we’ve finished collecting hair, we will stuff it into old nylons and put it in mesh to strengthen the exterior. These sausage-like booms will be tied together to contain and absorb oil spills,” one of the sites says.
The hoax apparently fooled the Province and other news outlets. The Province story on MyHairCares appeared on Postmedia newspaper sites across Canada before being taken down.
In a statement today, Gina Jordan, spokesperson for Enbridge Pipelines, called the MyHairCares hoax a “cynical attempt to take advantage of public concern about the environment”.
“Enbridge will vigorously defend its reputation, and is considering an appropriate legal response to this media campaign attack,” Jordan said.
PERM’s release states: “Enbridge’s proposed Northern Gateway Pipeline would cut across the Rocky Mountains, the pristine Great Bear rain forest, and over 1,000 streams and rivers. The pipeline would carry 700,000 barrels a day of petroleum products across 1,170 kilometres between Alberta’s Tar Sands and the Pacific Coast, where supertankers would carry the crude though the treacherous Douglas Channel—an area in which currents render conventional oil containment booms useless.”
The group says members will introduce themselves to the public on Wednesday (March 16) at a noon press conference outside Enbridge’s office in Vancouver.
“Free haircuts will available for all, and all clippings collected then (as well as any clippings mailed in by salons) will be donated to Michigan PERM members still struggling to clean up Enbridge’s mess in their community,” PERM’s release says.
You can follow Stephen Hui on Twitter at twitter.com/stephenhui.