Keystone: ‘This is what pipelines do: They spill’

Wednesday, Oct. 30, 2019 photo provided by the North Dakota Department of Environmental Quality shows affected land from a Keystone oil pipeline leak near Edinburg, North Dakota. Regulators said TC Energy's Keystone pipeline leaked an estimated 383,000 gallons of oil in northeastern North Dakota, though the cause was still under investigation. (North Dakota Department of Environmental Quality/Taylor DeVries)

Keystone Pipeline shutdown and what 383,000 gallons of oil means as one of many spills in the history of pipelines

A lot of critics of the Keystone XL pipeline have been expecting the big spill. Last week it came, some 383,000 gallons of oil leaked in North Dakota, near Edinburgh in Walsh County.

Tribal leaders were quick to point out that this has been a concern for a long time.

Now the federal government has shut down the portion of the pipeline that has leaked until further testing and corrective actions are taken.

“Indigenous communities have always taught that we should care for the next seven generations,” said Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Chairman Mike Faith said in a news release.

“This is what pipelines do: They spill,” said Chase Iron Eyes, lead counsel for the Lakota People’s Law Project and public relations director for Oglala Sioux Tribe President Julian Bear Runner. “This latest Keystone leak demonstrates why we stood against Dakota Access in the first place, why we’re doing so again now, and why we’re prepared to fight Keystone XL every step of the way.”

See related: Native American leaders say Keystone spill highlights the need to oppose Dakota Access Expansion, Keystone XL

The Keystone Pipeline is a project pipeline that transports tar sands oil from Canada oil fields through seven states in the U.S. North Dakota was the subject of international news as #NoDAPL opposers to the pipeline fought against the TransCanada Pipeline company, which has now changed its name to TC Energy.

Opposition to the pipeline expansion, known as the Keystone XL Pipeline — which will double the oil transporting capacity from 570,000 barrels a day to 1.1 million barrels — continues to increase. “Dakota Access has already spilled 11 times, and now they want to double its capacity. That pipeline should be pulled out of the ground, and KXL should be stopped as well,” Faith said.

In a video released by the Lakota People’s Law Project titled Say NO to DAPL Expansion, Standing Rock Tribal Council member Charles Walker said, “Those of you that have stood with Standing Rock in the past, we compel you right now to stand with us once again as we oppose the increase of the amount of barrels going through the Dakota Access Pipeline.”

In response to the outpouring on concern at the pipeline sites, on social media and more, the state of North Dakota’s Public Service Commission has called a hearing to discuss the plans of the doubling of oil capacity of the Dakota Access Pipeline on Wednesday, November 13 at 9 a.m. CST at Emmons County Courthouse in Linton, right across the river from Standing Rock.

The Keystone Pipeline has been shutdown

The Keystone Pipeline, which has been shut down since October 29, has remained shut down. Due to an order by the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, the pipeline segment that leaked is “hazardous to life, property and the environment without immediate corrective actions.”

Alan Mayberry, an associate administrator for the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, wrote in his order, “After evaluating the foregoing preliminary findings of fact, I find that the continued operation of the affected segment without corrective measures is or would be hazardous to life, property, and the environment.”

Worries about permits requested

The Associated Press reported that opponents of the Keystone XL expansion in South Dakota were voicing their concerns about several water permits. TC Energy is requesting and applying for water permits in the Cheyenne, White, and Bad Rivers to be used in construction to install pipes, build pump stations and control the amount of dust.

How spills contaminate water

According to the science-based website 71Percent.org, a single gallon of oil can contaminate as much as one million gallons of water. Spilling even something as small as one pint of oil in a wetland area or a lake could cover the surface area of an acre of water.

The Washington State Department of Ecology listed some of the disastrous results of pipeline oil leaks in a 2017 Pipeline Oil Spill Risks document available online.

Washington State Department of Ecology
Screen capture, Washington State Department of Ecology

In Washington state alone, 820 miles of pipelines carry approximately 7 billion gallons of petroleum products per year and these pipelines run under waterways, lakes streams, and wetlands.

In 1999 a pipeline in Bellingham, Washington spilled 277,000 gallons of gasoline costing more than $100 million dollars in damage and the closure of Bellingham Bay. 236,000 gallons spilled into Whatcom and Hanna Creeks causing an extreme loss of vegetation, fish, and animals. There were three human fatalities.

In 2013, the Pegasus Pipeline spilled 210,000 gallons of heavy crude oil into a neighborhood near Little Rock Arkansas. Property damage topped $57 million dollars and there were 130 property owner lawsuits filed. Several hundred animals were covered in oil and 22 persons were evacuated.

In 2010, the Kalamazoo River oil spill occurred - spilling 1.2 million gallons of diluted oil bitumen into the Kalamazoo River. It is considered to be one of the costliest onshore cleanups in U.S. History costing approximate 1.2 billion dollars. countless animals, fish, and river wildlife were killed, massive evacuations took place and sever drinking water restrictions were imposed.

Keystone Pipeline history

Though the 383,000-gallon spill was the latest to take place on October 30, it is not the first incident.

According to Canada.com in a 2011 report, Canadian federal officials had reported 100 pipeline spills and accidents by Enbridge and TransCanada.

But since 2010, there have been nearly thirty reported spills ranging in volume from a few gallons to hundreds of thousands,

On March 16, 2011, The Keystone Pipeline leaked a reported 126 gallons at the Seneca Pump Station in Nemaha Kansas. A few months later, the Ludden Pump Station reported an estimated 16,800 gallons spill. Four days later, 14,000 gallons spilled at the Severance Pump Station in North Dakota.

On April 2, 2016, 16,800 gallons spilled in Hutchinson County South Dakota, and in November 16, 2017, 407,000 gallons spilled near Amherst South Dakota. The 407,000-gallon spill made international news.

The latest spill occurred on October 31 at 383,000 gallons.

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Follow Indian Country Today’s associate editor Vincent Schilling (Akwesasne Mohawk) on Twitter - @VinceSchilling and Instagram - @VinceSchilling

Email - vschilling@indiancountrytoday.com

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