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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Native Nations Sue the Federal Government to Stop the Keystone XL Pipeline

The Rosebud Sioux Tribe (Sicangu Lakota Oyate) and the Fort Belknap Indian Community (Assiniboine (Nakoda) and Gros Ventre (Aaniiih) Tribes) are suing the Trump Administration in the District Court for violating key federal regulations in approving the Keystone XL tar sands crude oil pipeline, according to an email from the Native American Rights Fund, which also has joined the suit.

The 77-page lawsuit asks the court to find the federal permits violated the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), and the National Historic Preservation Act( NHPA). The lawsuit asks the Court to rescind the permits and prohibit “any activity in furtherance of the construction, connection, operation, and maintenance of the Pipeline and related facilities.”

Some of the arguments this lawsuit makes are similar to the ones that Native nations in northern Minnesota could make against Enbridge Line 3.

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Cheyenne River Nation to Keystone XL: ‘We Will Be Waiting’

The Cheyenne River Sioux Nation in South Dakota is apparently a people of few words.

Map of Keystone XL Pipeline. (Wikimedia Commons)

Cheyenne River received a letter from the TransCanada corporation on Wednesday, alerting it to upcoming work on Keystone XL, a tar sands crude oil pipeline that will run from Alberta, Canada to Texas, crossing South Dakota and other states along the way.

The letter included a disingenuous passage about how TransCanada cares about indigenous rights.

TransCanada recognizes Tribal Nations as rightsholders who have a distinct relationship with the land. We appreciate the concern that local Tribal Leadership and community members may have with the increased activities throughout Montana and South Dakota, and welcome the opportunity to discuss further. …

Harold C. Frazier, chairman of Cheyenne River, responded to TransCanada the next day with a letter of only four words:

We will be waiting.

Images of the correspondence follow.

DAPL Operational, Keystone XL Moves Ahead, But Do We Really Need Them?

The 2013 Mayflower oil spill occurred on March 29, 2013 in Arkansas, releasing 134,000 gallons of crude oil. (Wikimedia Foundation)

Dakota Access LLC has reported that oil would start flowing through the pipeline this week, according an article in Slate.

The Standing Rock Sioux and Cheyenne River Sioux tribe are challenging the pipeline in court, claiming the federal government violated environmental, historic-preservation, and religious-freedom laws in approving the project. The ruling is likely several weeks away, the article said.

Keystone XL also is moving forward, and will get federal approval today, according to a story in MPR:

The go-ahead for Keystone will mark a clear victory for oil industry advocates, who say the pipeline will create jobs and improve U.S. energy security. Both of those arguments are disputed by the pipeline’s opponents. They say new jobs will be minimal and short-lived, and argue the pipeline won’t help the U.S. with its energy needs because the oil is destined for export.

And Enbridge continues to pursue its Line 3 expansion through northern Minnesota, another pipeline carrying dirty Canadian tar sands oils.

These projects make little sense given the U.S.’s decline in crude oil imports and the fact that we are now a net exporter of refined gas products.

Do We Need All These Projects?

Here are a few oil-related facts you might find surprising.

  • Minnesota’s petroleum fuel consumption has been flat since 2010, and since its 2004 peak it is down 19 percent, according to data provided by the Sierra Club’s North Star Chapter. (On a national level, U.S. petroleum fuel consumption also is down since the mid-2000s, but not as much as in Minnesota, about 6 percent.)
  • From its peak in 2006, U.S. crude oil imports had dropped more than 20 percent by 2016. (See: Crude Oil Data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration.)
  • In early 2011, the United States became a net exporter of noncrude petroleum liquids and refined petroleum products, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

So why are we expanding crude oil pipelines?