Prayer ride and walk spotlights pipeline oil leakBy Talli Nauman
Native Sun News Today
Health & Environment Editor
AGENCY VILLAGE – Participants in the Dakota Prayer Ride & Water Walk trekked to Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate tribal headquarters here on December 9, after asking blessings for “Grandmother Earth and sacred water” at the site of the most recent Keystone I tar-sands crude-oil pipeline leak about 20 miles west of the Lake Traverse Indian Reservation. “Indigenous communities are usually at the frontline of climate change and environmental genocide, but climate change affects everybody,” organizer Waniya Locke said in rallying participants. “This is why we really gotta work together and stand up for Unci Maka and mni wiconi.” The pipeline failure, disclosed by TransCanada Corp. on November 16, is the largest of more than a dozen on the 10-year-old line that carries diluted bitumen, or dilbit, from the tar sands of Alberta, Canada, through North and South Dakota, Nebraska and Kansas, to a terminal in Illinois. Tar sands extraction emits up to three times more global-warming pollution than producing the same quantity of conventional crude, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council. TransCanada Corp. estimated its latest leak at 210,000 gallons, about the amount that would fill an Olympic swimming pool halfway. In its most recent incident report 10 days after the spill, it had a crew of 170 members, many of them local first-responders, working around-the-clock and had only recovered 44,730 gallons of the hazardous liquid. The federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration allowed restart of the dilbit flow and ordered the damaged segment be sent to the National Transportation Safety Board's metallurgical lab in Virginia for testing, after the location of the pipeline breach was identified. The agency had been allowing TransCanada Corp. to operate the conduit under a special permit at a stress level of 80 percent, while the normal operating pressure for hazardous liquid pipelines is 72 percent. The special permit, issued in 2007, responded to TransCanada Corp.’s promise that it would use all new materials, which would be safer than many of the older pipelines under operation. The pipeline administration said the source of the new problem likely dates back to construction. ‘Preliminary information indicates the failure may have been caused by mechanical damage to the pipeline and coating associated with a weight installed on the pipeline in 2008,” it said in a Corrective Action Order. Weights are placed on pipeline in areas where water level changes could result in buoyancy concerns. The administration noted that investigation is ongoing. The Congressional Research Service, which works exclusively for the U.S. Congress, providing policy and legal analysis, recently analyzed the economic viability of the related Keystone XL Pipeline. TransCanada Corp. would build the KXL through unceded 1868 Ft. Laramie Treaty territory to complete its Keystone system carrying the tar-sands crude to Texas refineries and Gulf Coast export facilities. The company proposed KXL when crude oil prices exceeded $100 per barrel, the Congressional Research Service noted. However, due in large part to U.S. oil production growth, prices have fallen to around $50 per barrel, it said. “This price drop has reduced near-term projections for growth in Canadian oil sands crude supplies—which are costly to produce,” it found.