They Keystone XL pipeline is in the news again. Read on to learn more about the latest court case surrounding the pipeline, and where Marshall County, South Dakota stands after their Keystone pipeline leak one year ago.
Pipeline Held Up
Todd Neely of DTNPF reported the latest developments in the Keystone XL pipeline saga. It appears that even after years of environmental study, the project has been held up yet again. This time by federal court in Montana. The Court vacated the pipeline approval and remanded it back to the US Department of State for a more complete environmental review. The process could take months.
The pipeline has been through a lot of court battles. TransCanada- the company that wants to build the pipeline- has fought farmers, ranchers, and environmentalists over it for years. Many of these groups are concerned about the sensitive habitats the pipeline passes through, like the Nebraska Sandhills. TransCanada also had planned to use eminent domain to acquire the land needed to build it- which doesn’t make affected landowners happy.
The Keystone XL pipeline would cover 2,000 miles and transport 830,000 barrels of bitumen oil per day from Alberta, Canada, to the Gulf of Mexico.
U.S. District Court Judge Brian Morris said the State Department’s efforts fell short, and the court ordered TransCanada to not conduct work on the pipeline in South Dakota, Montana and Nebraska.
“The department failed to comply with NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act) and the APA (Administrative Procedures Act) when it disregarded prior factual findings related to climate change and reversed course.”
Morris asked them to consider the effects of current oil prices on the viability of the pipeline. He also suggested more information about the “cumulative effects” of greenhouse gas emissions from the Alberta Clipper expansion and the Keystone pipeline, as well as newer modeling of possible oil spills and recommended measures for mitigation.
Mark Hefflinger is the communications director for Bold Alliance, which is one of the groups that filed the lawsuit. In a statement, Hefflinger said that the decision was a victory for property rights.
“This now 10-year battle is still far from over,” he said. “We’ll continue to stand together against this tar sands export pipeline that threatens property rights, water and climate at every opportunity, at every public hearing. People on the route deserve due process.”
It was thought that the project have little further trouble getting completed after Trump signed an executive order on Jan. 25, 2017, clearing the way for the Keystone project. After hearing about this court ruling, President Trump said,
“It was a political decision made by the judge. I think it’s a disgrace.”
Robin Rorick, the vice president of midstream and industry operations for the American Petroleum Institute agrees with Trump. Additional environmental reviews are unnecessary.
“In the more than 10 years since Keystone XL was proposed, the pipeline has passed every environmental review conducted for it,” Rorick said in a statement. “In fact, a total of six assessments by both the Obama and Trump administrations concluded that KXL is safe to build. Calls to conduct identical environmental reviews makes no sense and are a waste of tax dollars. A decade of Keystone delays needs to end now.”
When Leaks Occur
But what does happen when leaks occur? Shannon Marvel reported on what happened just one short year ago. One of the nation’s largest oil pipeline leaks occurred right along the North Dakota and South Dakota border- and surprise- it was the Keystone pipeline. TransCanada noticed a decrease in pipeline pressure and an increase in flow, and within minutes in the early morning hours of November 16, 2017, the pipeline was shut down.
But even after only a few short minutes, the Keystone pipeline leaked 407,400 gallons of crude oil into a field in Marshall County, SD- costing TransCanada $9.57 million.
Many things about this leak were not as bad as they could have been. When it happened, the ground was cold and frozen. If temperatures had been warmer, the clean-up could have been a lot more daunting and expensive. The leak also happened in a rural field, and the affected land was in the Conservation Reserve Program. So no crops were lost. The weather conditions made it fairly easy for the contaminated soil to be excavated and backfilled.
TransCanada deployed hundreds of workers to the site for clean-up. After only two weeks, the company had the go-ahead to start the pipeline back up. Six months later the area of the spill was oil free and reseeded. The South Dakota Department of Environment and Natural Resources required TransCanada to install wells and conduct quarterly groundwater samplings. All three tests thus far have revealed no problems.
In this instance, the leak was easily mitigated, but it’s still unknown what caused the leak in the pipeline. The final investigation report from the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration has still not been released.
There have been 14 leaks since the pipeline was first commissioned in 2010.
There are many factors at play here. We obviously need a safe way to transport the oil that we all use across our country. Many would argue that pipelines like the Keystone are the best way to do that. Like any transportation method, it has its flaws. It’s going to leak at times. There will be accidents. Many see the need for it, but don’t want it in their backyard. Are affected landowners being treated fairly? Is TransCanada transparent and honest when it comes to spills? Will the court battles for the Keystone XL keep continuing?