Keystone Pipeline Leaks In South Dakota


On Thursday November 16th, 2017, about 210,000 gallons of crude oil leaked into Amherst, South Dakota from the controversial Keystone XL Pipeline. Crews quickly shut down the pipeline and the company, TransCanada claims to be working closely with officials to clean up the area and find the cause of the leak. “The safety of the public and the environment are our top priorities and we will continue to provide updates as they become available,” said a statement issued by TransCanada. Currently, officials claim that no wildlife was affected by the spill and all water sources are clean for the moment. According to one landowner, Kent Moeckly, an avid opponent to the Keystone Pipeline, “there’s a heck of a south wind up here today, and man it just stunk of crude oil. A mile away, but I’ll tell you it was like it was next door.” Many opponents of the pipeline claim that the spill was inevitable, and shows the danger of allowing for the Keystone Pipeline and pipelines like it to operate.

The spill comes just days before Nebraska is set to vote on an expansion of the 8 million dollar project. This is considered by many to be the last regulatory hurdle for the Keystone Pipeline. TransCanada wants to run the pipeline through areas considered environmentally fragile, as well as the private land of many farmers and ranchers who oppose the pipeline. On November 20, the Nebraska Public Service Commission will vote to decide if the Keystone Pipeline can run through Nebraska, and vote to use Nebraska’s eminent domain laws to take the land from unwilling landowners. Environmental groups warn that this spill will not be the last and hope that Nebraska will put an end to the expansion. According to May Boeve, the executive director of environmental group 350.org, “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.” Similarly, the Sierra Club, another environmental group, issued a statement, saying. “We’ve always said it’s not a question of whether a pipeline will spill, but when, and today TransCanada is making our case for us,”

According to the South Dakota Department of Environment and Natural Resources, this is the third oil spill in the state all year. In April 2017, the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) leaked around 84 gallons of oil. Like the Keystone Pipeline, the Dakota Access Pipeline was met with controversy, particularly from Native American tribes who faced the greatest threat from the pipeline. Protesters, called Water Protectors, peacefully resisted the pipeline for months and were met with violence from law enforcement, including water cannons, rubber bullets, tear gas, and attack dogs.

This is not the first oil spill, but if the United States continues to rely heavily on archaic forms of fuel instead of innovating new modes of energy, it will certainly not be the last. The consequences of this leak are yet unknown but it is likely to impact the health and wellness of the people in the area. Our health and homes are in danger of being seriously hurt, and if we as a country continue to value pipelines over people, we will not last much longer.

Kathleen Stone

I am currently a student at Bates College studying sociology and education.

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