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Keystone Pipeline Leaks in South Dakota, Spilling Over 200,000 Gallons of Oil

"Enough is enough. Pipelines leak - it's not a question of 'if', but 'when.'"

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Approximately 210,000 (or 5,000 barrels) of oil leaked Thursday from the Keystone oil pipeline in South Dakota. The leak, which is the largest spill to date in South Dakota, happened near Amherst, South Dakota.

This is bad timing for TransCanada, which owns the pipeline, because in a few days Nebraska regulators will decide whether or not to give the green light to a sister project, the Keystone XL pipeline.

Crew workers shut down the pipeline and officials are investigating the cause of the leak. TransCanada stated, “The safety of the public and environment are our top priorities and we will continue to provide updates as they become available.”

According to Brian Walsh, a spokesman for the state’s Department of Environment and Natural Resources, there are no reports of any waterways, water systems or wildlife impacted by the leak. However, “It is a below-ground pipeline but some oil has surfaced above ground to the grass. It will be a few days until they can excavate and get in borings to see if there is groundwater contamination.”

The spill occurred in the same county as part of the Lake Traverse Reservation. David Flute, tribal chairman of the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate said, “We are concerned that the oil spill is close to our treaty land, but we are trying to stay positive that they are getting the spill contained and that they will share any environmental assessments with the tribal agency.”

In April of last year, the pipeline leaked 16,800 gallons, or 400 barrels, and cleanup took about two months.

The Keystone pipeline currently delivers both Canadian and U.S. crude oil around the country and stretches 2,687 miles in length. The controversial Keystone XL would add to the already massive system.

“Enough is enough,” says Scott Parkin, Rainforest Action Network’s Organizing Director. “Pipelines leak – it’s not a question of ‘if’, but ‘when.’ The pending permit for TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline should be flatly rejected by Nebraska’s Public Service Commission (PSC), but know that no matter what the outcome, the fight’s not over yet. We need to stop all expansion of extreme fossil fuels such as tar sands oil – and we need the finance community to stop funding these preventable climate disasters – disasters for the climate, the environment and Indigenous rights.”

Environmental groups are pointing to the spill as just another example of the dangers of oil pipelines to convince Nebraska regulators to put an end to the Keystone XL expansion. However, it may not be that easy. Since Trump has become President he has made it a priority to move forward with oil pipeline projects, even signing an executive order to overturn President Obama’s rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline.

Pipeline supporters, including Trump, claim that oil pipelines reduce our dependency on foreign oil and create jobs, but even the massive Keystone XL pipeline project would only create 35 permanent jobs, and at what cost?

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Alexandra Jacobo is a progressive writer, activist, and mother who began her political involvement in earnest passing out blankets to occupiers in Zuccotti Park in 2011. She is concerned with educating the public and inspiring them to take action on progressive issues that promote positive change at home and abroad.