Native Sun News: TransCanada under scrutiny for crude spills

The following story was written and reported by Talli Nauman. All content © Native Sun News.

Just as the June 6 public comment deadline approached on TransCanada Inc.’s controversial proposed Keystone XL Pipeline, two spills on the company’s other existing tar-sands crude-oil pipeline across the Great Plains prompted U.S. regulators to issue an order for immediate corrective action.

“I find that the continued operation of the pipeline without corrective measures would be hazardous to life, property and the environment,” the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administrator for Pipeline Safety Jeffrey D. Wiese said in a June 3 letter to the company.

He said the decision to consider a shutdown was due to the two most recent spills on the Keystone 1 Pipeline.

“After considering the circumstances surrounding the May 7 and May 29, 2011 failures, the proximity of the pipeline to populated areas, water bodies, public roadways and high consequence areas, the hazardous nature of the product the pipeline transports, the ongoing investigation to determine the cause of the failures, and the potential for the conditions causing the failures to be present elsewhere on the pipeline, I find that a failure to issue this order expeditiously to require immediate corrective action would result in likely serious harm to life, property, and the environment,” he said in the letter.

An April 29 tar-sands crude-oil pipeline spill in the Canadian province of Alberta, followed by the May 7 and May 29 spills of the toxic slurry from Transcanada’s Keystone 1 Pipeline in North Dakota and Kansas, respectively, fanned the flames of opposition in and around Indian country.

An independent private investigation is warranted in the case of the May 7 Keystone 1 spill at TransCanada Inc.’s Sargent County pumping station, located near the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate’s Lake Traverse Reservation, non-profit Dakota Resource Council member Paul Mathews, told the Native Sun News.

The spill was one mile from the South Dakota state border near Cogswell in extreme eastern North Dakota.

“A complete investigation by an independent competent professional in crude oil pipeline control center operations would be the most prudent way to find an accurate assessment of Keystone’s control room response or the public’s risk associated with this episode or future ones,” Mathews said.

When the 24-hour National Response Center received a report of the twelfth toxic tar-sands crude-oil spill on the Keystone 1 Pipeline May 29, the Sierra Club responded in writing: “This is a pipeline that was estimated to spill only once in its first year. It hasn’t even been operational for a full year and has already spilled 12 times.” The national non-profit inquired: “And TransCanada still wants the U.S. State Department to approve its proposed Keystone XL tar-sands pipeline?”

The deadline for comment on the proposed second pipeline’s supplemental environmental impact statement was set for June 6 in a renewed attempt by the U.S. State Department to garner EPA approval of the controversial route from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico.

Because the Keystone pipelines cross the international border between Canada and the United States, the department is ultimately in charge of issuing the permission for the president’s signature. The non-profit Defenders of the Black Hills, in Rapid City, South Dakota, urged people to comment.

The U.S. House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee held a hearing May 23 to entertain a bill facilitating the approval process for the Keystone XL. With testimony from five panelists in favor of the project and one against, the balance of the panel prompted the non-profit Corporate Ethics International to charge that the “hearing was staged to pressure the Obama Administration to fast-track a decision allowing construction.”

The latest oil spill involved 50 barrels of toxic slurry spilled in the city limits of Bendena, in Doniphan County, Kansas. The problem that originated on May 29 was expected to be fixed to the federal government’s satisfaction in time to reopen the pipeline June 4.

Keystone 1 runs across more than 1,000 miles from Alberta Province in Canada through North and South Dakota, Nebraska, and Kansas, where it turns east to Missouri and Illinois.

Keystone XL would run 2,000 miles from Alberta to the U.S. Gulf Coast. It would span Montana, South Dakota and Nebraska, before connecting with the Keystone I Pipeline in Kansas, then proceeding on to the Gulf of Mexico through Oklahoma and Texas. From there the crude could be shipped overseas.

(Talli Nauman is the NSN Health and Environment Editor and is a co-director of Journalism to Raise Environmental Awareness. Contact her at talli.nauman@gmail.com)

Related Stories:
Native Sun News: Spill affects Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate (5/27)

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