By: Neal Kisor, News Writer
On November 23th the Keystone XL Pipeline leaked 210,000 gallons of oil across South Dakota. The spill is the largest produced by Keystone to date. TransCanada, the pipeline’s operator, announced that the spill will not affect waterways or wildlife. Additionally, the spill was reportedly shut down “within minutes” of the accident being noticed. The 2,600 mile long pipeline promised to have no more than eleven spills over its fifty-year projected lifetime. However, the Thanksgiving spill marks the second one in under two years. In April 2016 the pipeline spilled 16,800 gallons of oil- or about 400 barrels- and the clean-up took around two months to complete. This spill is more than ten times bigger than the initial spill, or around 5,000 barrels of oil.
According to TransCanada the EPA has been alerted to the issue and will actively work to resolve the issue. The spill has raised concerns with the neighboring Sioux population. Dave Flute, the chairman of the reservation closest to the spill has demanded reassurance that the oil won’t seep into historical Sioux land or, perhaps more importantly, the aquifer. Flute has been cooperative with TransCanada and the EPA, he wants to learn the cause of the leak and how he can help.
Environmental organization, Greenpeace, has expressed major concern with the spill. They went on to say that this spill proves that the pipeline should not be allowed to continue. Nebraska, who was next in line to approve the pipeline has opted to change the course of the pipeline. Nebraska has been a hotspot for Keystone debates due to its wetlands and the high risk of contamination. Additionally, TransCanada has publicly stated that spills have the potential to contaminate the drinking water of “hundreds of thousands” including the populations of Kansas City, Omaha, and Lincoln.
Nebraska is home to the Ogallala Aquifer, one of the most important aquifers in the world. The aquifer is responsible for providing irrigation to over a quarter of irrigated farmland. Additionally, the aquifer provides 30% of the groundwater used for irrigation. Nebraska has expressed concerns that if a spill were to occur close to the aquifer, or spread to the aquifer, it could contaminate all of this farmland and create a catastrophe.
Currently, the proposed pipeline route only cuts through the very outskirts of the Ogallala Aquifer. Though, as Thursday proved, hundreds of thousands of gallons can leak in minutes. The pipeline will move on, and hopefully TransCanada will be alert and ready for the next error in the system to minimize environmental impact.