'Pipelines are bound to spill': Campaigners' fears realised as Keystone suffers South Dakota oil spill

November 18, 2017
Anti-Keystone protest in Washington, 2014.

Some of the worst fears and dire predictions of opponents of the Keystone XL (KXL) pipeline came true on November 16 when pipeline owner TransCanada announced that more than 200,000 gallons of oil had spilled from the existing portion of the Keystone system in Marshall County, South Dakota.

The company reported the spill in a public statement, but Buzzfeed noted there was about a four-and-a-half hour gap between when the company said the breach was discovered and when local officials say they were notified.

South Dakota Department of Environment and Natural Resources told Buzzfeed: “We’re not quite sure why there was a time gap in there.”

Outside of the company’s statement, there was no outside or independent verification as of November 16 of the size of the spill or scale of the possible damage.

“With their horrible safety record, today’s spill is just the latest tragedy caused by the irresponsible oil company TransCanada,” said Ben Schreiber, senior political strategist at Friends of the Earth.

“We cannot let the world’s fossil fuel empires continue to drive government policy toward climate catastrophe. The only safe solution for oil and fossil fuels is to keep them in the ground.”

Rachel Rye Butler, an anti-tar sands campaigner with Greenpeace, noted the spill came just days before the Nebraska Public Service Commission was set to decide on state approval for Keystone XL.

“The writing on the wall to reject this pipeline could not be more clear,” Butler said in a statement. “These pipelines are bound to spill, and they put communities, precious drinking water, and our climate at risk.

“The existing Keystone pipeline just saw an enormous spill of oil yet there is an attempt by the same company to build a brand new pipeline, Keystone XL, that would pump over 800,000 barrels of tar sands oil per day if built.”

Executive director of climate action group 350.org, May Boeve said: “This is exactly the kind of disaster we can expect more of if Keystone XL is approved. No matter what TransCanada says, there’s no such thing as a safe fossil fuel pipeline.

“Indigenous peoples, farmers, and ranchers along Keystone XL’s proposed route have been holding the line against this project for years. Whatever Nebraska commissioners decide [on November 20], we’ll be ready for the work ahead to stop this and all new fossil fuel projects that threaten our communities and climate.”

Scott Parkin, organising director for the Rainforest Action Network, said: “Enough is enough. Pipelines leak — it’s not a question of ‘if’, but ‘when’...

“We need to stop all expansion of extreme fossil fuels such as tar sands oil — and we need the finance community to stop funding these preventable climate disasters — disasters for the climate, the environment and Indigenous rights.”

Buzzfeed reported: “David Flute, chairman of the Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate tribe, [said] the leak was on a section of pipeline adjacent to his reservation. He said the area has ‘the cleanest lakes in South Dakota,’ as well as a large subterranean aquifer, and that he was ‘concerned’ about the possibility of contamination.”

Butler concluded: “It is time to say no to outdated fossil fuel infrastructure and invest in clean energy instead. At the end of the day, you can't drink oil.”

[Abridged from Common Dreams.]

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