Keystone Pipeline spills 383,000 gallons of crude oil in North Dakota wetland, its fourth major spill in nine years

The Keystone Pipeline spilled 383,000 gallons of a tar sands crude oil (9,119 barrels) on Oct 29 into wetlands near Edinburg, North Dakota, according to multiple news reports.

The spill’s cause remains unknown, but one possible culprit is North Dakota’s record rains. Water-saturated soils become more fluid and can cause ground slumping; that puts stress underground pipelines. A federal government advisory has cited heavy rains and flooding as causes for other pipeline breaks. Such problems only will get worse as climate change brings more severe storms.

This should raise a red flag for Minnesota policymakers regarding the proposed Enbridge Line 3 pipeline. It would run 340 miles across northern Minnesota through our state’s cleanest waters, crossing more than 200 water bodies and 75 miles of wetlands.

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Deck is Stacked Against Water Protectors

I went to the Parkway Theater last night to watch the premiere of Black Snake Killaz. The documentary had its uplifting moments, but was a reminded that the deck is stacked against water protectors. Treaty rights don’t matter. A lack of adequate environmental review didn’t matter. The government could use military weapons. concussion grenades, mack and more and call the water protectors terrorists. A para-military private security firm was allowed to operate against the water protectors and influence law enforcement’s response, and did so without a license to operate in the state.

I checked my email when I got home and read a news update from MPR, another “stacked deck” story¬† about water protectors.

It requires that I also run a correction to the post I wrote Thursday: Keystone Spills 200,000 Gallons of Tar Sands Crude, Could Affect Keystone XL Vote Monday. It discussed how the timing of a big spill on the Keystone Pipeline could affect a key vote on its sibling project, Keystone XL. The Nebraska Public Services Commission is scheduled to take a final vote on Keystone XL Monday.

Yes the leak happened, but no, it won’t affect the vote, according to the MPR story: Keystone pipeline leak won’t affect Nebraska ruling on expansion. State law “does not allow pipeline safety to be a factor in their decision,” the story said.

Nebraska lawmakers gave the five-member commission the power to regulate major oil pipelines in 2011 in response to a public outcry over the pipeline and its potential impact on the Sandhills, an ecologically fragile region of grass-covered sand dunes.

But when they passed the law, legislators argued that pipeline safety is a federal responsibility and should not factor in the state decision.

The law makes no sense and is one more example of a rigged system.

Keystone Spills 200,000 Gallons of Tar Sands Crude, Could Affect Keystone XL Vote Monday

The Keystone Pipeline is in dark red, Keystone XL is in green. (Wikimedia Commons)

The current Keystone pipeline that runs from Alberta, Canada to Nebraska spilled 5,000 barrels, or more than 200,000 gallons of tar sands crude oil this morning, according to accounts in the Washington Post and other media outlets.

The spill occurred just southeast of the small town of Amherst in northeast South Dakota, affecting either grasslands or agricultural land, the story said.

This gives pipeline opponents one more example to use to try to stop other major projects, such as Keystone XL and Enbridge Line 3 through northern Minnesota.

A story in the Atlantic described the Keystone as a 1,100-mile-long pipeline that links oil fields in Alberta, Canada, to the large crude-trading hubs in Patoka, Illinois, and Cushing, Oklahoma. … It was completed in 2011.”

Keystone is the older sibling to the highly controversial Keystone XL pipeline proposal, which still awaits final approvals. (See map.) TransCanada, a Canadian-based pipeline company, is behind both projects.

During his term, former President Obama rejected Keystone XL. But President Trump quickly reversed that, issuing an executive order to approve it. As the Post reports, the project still needs the approval of the Nebraska Public Service Commission (PSC). It just so happens the PSC had scheduled a key vote on Keystone XL for Monday.

Activists are citing today’s spill as one more reason to reject Keystone XL.

As a story by CNN summarizes:

The approval [by Trump] followed years of intense debate over the pipeline amid hefty opposition from environmental groups, who argued the pipeline supports the extraction of crude oil from oil sands, which pumps about 17% more greenhouse gases than standard crude oil extraction. Environmentalists also opposed the pipeline because it would cut across the Ogallala Aquifer, one of the world’s largest underground deposits of fresh water.

Tar sands oil is much thicker and stickier than traditional oil, significantly complicating cleanup efforts. The fact it’s thicker also means it needs to be combined with other hazardous materials to allow it to be transported in pipelines.