Oil Leak Adding Fuel to Pipeline Controversy

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Oil Leak Adding Fuel to Pipeline Controversy

Joselyn Osorio, Staff Writer

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The recent oil leak in South Dakota has added fuel to the controversy about the Keystone Pipeline and Dakota Access Pipeline. On November 16th, 210,000 gallons of oil leaked from the pipeline. The pipeline was shut down as officials investigated the cause.

The Keystone Pipeline was commissioned in 2010. It is owned by TransCanada Corporation. It runs from Alberta, Canada to refineries in Illinois and Texas. Currently, there are three phases in the project. Phase I runs over 2,000 miles delivering oil from Alberta to Nebraska then Illinois. Phase II goes from Nebraska to storage and distribution facilities in Oklahoma. The last phase, The Gulf Coast Extension, travels from Oklahoma to refineries in Texas.

Last year, nearly 17,000 gallons were spilled. Many concerns continue to be arisen. Brian Walsh, spokesman for the state’s Department of Environment and Natural Resources says though the pipeline is underground, “some oil has surfaced above ground to the grass.” Luckily, TransCanada says there were no initial reports of waterways being contaminated.

This spill occurred days before Nebraska officials announced their decision about constructing Keystone XL Pipeline, the fourth phase. It has been protested since 2010 over safety issues and greenhouse gas concerns. Environmental groups strongly oppose it because it would extract crude oil from oil sands. That would result in 17% more greenhouse gases produced than by standard oil extraction. Another major concern is that the pipeline is planned to run through the Ogallala Aquifer, a large underground fresh water deposit. Due to its thicker consistency, this tar sand oil must be mixed with hazardous materials to flow through the pipelines. A leak from this pipeline contaminating the fresh water would be disastrous. With only one percent of the earth’s water being accessible fresh water, many agree this is not a risk that should be taken.

The Keystone XL Pipeline is not the only one to have recently come under fire. There have been many protests to bar the Dakota Access Pipeline. Both face opposition from environmentalists, as well as Native Americans, and those defending Native American’s rights.  Americans have already taken the Native’s land and pushed them onto reservations. These areas are supposed to be protected, but the pipelines would cut across their sovereign lands.

Unfortunately for protesters, it seems their efforts will have been lost. In November 2015 Barack Obama’s administration had rejected the fourth phase. When Donald Trump took office he signed the presidential memorandum to revive the Dakota Access Pipeline and Keystone XL Pipeline. Despite the added environmental destruction, Trump believes in the economic benefits.