What was originally estimated as a 187 gallon Keystone Pipeline oil spill in Freeman, South Dakota has now drastically increased to nearly 17,000 gallons. TransCanada, the energy company that created the Keystone Pipeline, shut it down for repairs and cleanup when a leak was reported on April 2nd. No threat to the environment or public health was reported, and the pipeline is running again at a reduced pressure.
Despite TransCanada’s quick response, the threat of environmental damage still worries environmental activists and especially Native American communities, who oppose further construction of pipelines. This leak is the Keystone Pipeline’s 35th since it was established in 2010. It should have been reported by one of TransCanada’s automatic monitoring systems, but was instead found by local farmer Loren Schultz.
According to a report by the Pipeline and Hazardous Material Safety Administration (PHMSA), the leak was caused by a problem in the welding that connected the pipes together. The pipe that failed was made by Welspun, headquartered in India, which is known for their low-quality pipes.
These developments are fueling concerns from communities like the Standing Rock Sioux reservation in North Dakota, who face the proposed Dakota Access Pipeline being built on their water supply in the Missouri River. There is a high possibility that Dakota Access, the company building the pipeline, will repeat the same mistakes as TransCanada. This time, a leak could bring more severe damage, considering it would contaminate the water supply that thousands of people rely on.
The Dakota Access Pipeline, recently approved by the Iowa Utilities Board (IUB), will run from the Bakken oil fields in North Dakota through South Dakota and Iowa, and will end in Patoka, Illinois. Dakota Access still needs approval from the Army Corps of Engineers and the Iowa Department of Natural Resources before constructions begins. However, none of the Sioux people on the nearby reservations were consulted about the pipeline crossing over their water supply, and their pleas for it being built elsewhere are being ignored.
The Dakota Access Pipeline violates the Rivers and Harbors Appropriation Act, since its construction over a body of water was not authorized by the U.S Congress. It also violates the National Historical Preservation Act because the reservation is home to sacred Native lands and the burial site of the Lakota leader Tatanka Iyotake, better known as “Sitting Bull.” The IUB is also facing a lawsuit from the Northwest Iowa Landowners Association, which argues that Dakota Access has no right to seize property for the pipeline.
According to Standing Rock Chairman Dave Archambault, the Dakota Access Pipeline not only threatens their water supply, but also sacred natural lands where eagles gather every spring.
“We still exist and we need to protect what little we have left because so much as been taken from us,” Archambault said in an interview with RT America.
Earlier this week, the Environmental Protection Agency asked the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to more carefully review and revise its preliminary plan for the Dakota Access Pipeline, adding there should be a closer look into the impacts a spill would have on drinking water for Native American tribes. If a proper investigation is not done and the Corps approves the Dakota Access Pipeline, the Standing Rock Sioux Nation is prepared to sue for environmental and historical preservation violations.
Dakota Access claims to care about the surrounding communities, but their actions have proven the opposite, they’re blinded by dollar signs and are spewing lies meant to comfort and assure people that nothing will go wrong. Considering how prevalent leaks are, the Dakota Access Pipeline will leak sooner or later, especially if they choose to cut corners and buy the cheapest pipes like TransCanada. Energy Independence should not come at the cost of endangering thousands of lives, forcibly taking property and destroying the environment—TransCanada and Dakota Access would beg to differ.