Pipeline raises more controversy with the extent of damage still unknown
By: Kaelen Pelaia, Staff Writer
On Thursday, November 16th, TransCanada Operations reported that 210 000 gallons of crude oil spilled into the South Dakota countryside.
Maintenance crews shut down the pipeline Thursday morning. South Dakota’s spokesperson for the Department of Natural and Environmental Resources, Brian Walsh, told CNN that the leak occurred a little over three miles southeast of Amherst,
This is not the first spill relating to the Keystone pipeline, nor the first spill in South Dakota –another, smaller, spill of approximately 16 800 gallons, near South Dakota and Nebraska border occurred in April 2016. The most recent, however, is by far the largest Keystone spill to date, and by an immense margin.
“It is a below-ground pipeline, but some oil has surfaced above ground to the grass,” Walsh told CNN. “It will be a few days until they can excavate and get in borings to see if there is groundwater contamination.”
Despite the sheer volume of oil released into the surrounding ecosystem, there have yet to be any reported incidents of the spill affecting wildlife or water systems. TransCanada reported that the pipeline was shut down “within minutes” of the system failure. However, the damage to the local environment has yet to be fully understood or reported.
This incident lends much credibility to the various groups advocating for the closure of transcontinental pipelines, such as the large protests surrounding the Dakota Access Pipeline in early 2016, led by the Standing Rock Reservation of Indigenous Sioux Americans. A large camp was set up on the path of the pipeline’s construction, and attracted thousands of protesters. Now, it would seem the fears of the protesters have come to fruition.
The longstanding debate over the economic cruciality of oil and the promising future presented by renewable energy has dominated global environmental politics in recent years. The United States, especially under the current Trump administration, has rejected the principles and guidelines of the Paris Climate Agreement and other such international efforts in favour of the economic interests of oil and coal lobbyists in Congress. While Americans and the environment continue to suffer the consequences of dirty energy, the interests of oil and coal magnates continue to be protected by members of Congress who are bought and paid for by these corporations.
Not only are the environmental consequences reaching new lows, but the ‘America First’ rhetoric of the Trump administration is seemingly intentionally hypocritical. Countries such as China and France (as well as Canada), who have committed to the guidelines of the Paris Agreement have already taken steps in investing in the burgeoning new industry of renewable energy. If the American government really wanted to put ‘America first’, they would ditch coal and oil and take the lead in a promising new, environmentally conscious, industry. But, it would appear that Congress runs on the will of corporations instead of people.
In any case, as efforts abound to assess the damage of the Keystone spill into the surrounding landscape of South Dakota, concerns are already being raised about the proposed Keystone XL pipeline. This proposal would expand on the existing Keystone system transporting crude oil from Alberta refineries south to Steele City, Nebraska. The existing system already cuts through North Dakota and Montana. The spokesperson for the nearby Lake Traverse Reservation has stated that they “want to know how long is it going to take to dig this plume of contaminated soil and how can we be reassured, without a doubt, that it has not and will not seep into the aquifer.”
The latest pipeline spill should be a wakeup call to the American government – the environmental risks of oil and coal energy are proving to be too great, both on the people living in affected regions and around the globe. As long as oil and coal lobbyist bribes continue to supplant the interests of everyday American citizens, America is giving itself little opportunity to be “great again”.