For environmental groups, though, the leak was further evidence that Canada-based pipeline owner TC Energy should not be allowed to build the controversial Keystone XL addition, which would stretch more than a thousand miles from Alberta into the U.S. The Trump administration approved the long-stalled plan in 2017 after years of protests, but the project was blocked by a federal judge who called for further study on environmental impacts.
“With each one of these major spills that happens on the Keystone pipeline system, it becomes clearer and clearer that this is not safe,” said Doug Hayes, an attorney leading the Sierra Club’s work on Keystone XL. Critics worry about a similar mishap contaminating one of the hundreds of waterways along Keystone XL’s expected path, he said.
TC Energy did not immediately respond to additional questions Thursday evening.
This week’s leak was Keystone’s second big one in two years, and many smaller spills have plagued the pipeline since it opened in 2010 to carry oil from Alberta to Texas.
That’s cause for concern, some experts say.
“It’s a valid question, two cracks on a fairly new pipeline — geez, what’s going on?” the president of pipeline safety consulting company Accufacts, Richard Kuprewicz, told the Minnesota Star-Tribune.
Asked if regulators are concerned by the multiple incidents, Rockeman said authorities need to learn more about the latest leak’s cause — still under investigation, according to TC Energy and state authorities. The federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration is leading the inquiry and already on site, Rockeman said.
It could take years for the wetland to return to its normal state, he added.
The leak occurred Tuesday about three miles from the town of Edinburg, not far from the Canadian border, the state Department of Environmental Quality said. It’s one of the 10 largest onshore oil spills in the country since 2010, when an Enbridge pipeline released more than 800,000 gallons of oil in Michigan, according to the Star-Tribune.
No injuries or impacts on animals have been reported, TC Energy said in a statement, adding that the oil is now contained.
Crews are still focused on recovering the oil and will shift later to fixing the pipeline, according to the company. Large stretches of Keystone have been shut down.
Exactly how much was released will not be clear until it’s all recovered, TC Energy said. The total for the Keystone pipeline’s 2017 gush onto South Dakota agricultural land ended up being revised significantly, from about 210,000 gallons to more than 400,000.
The 2017 spill was probably rooted in a crack caused by a vehicle during Keystone’s construction, the National Transportation Safety Board found. The crack likely grew over time, the board concluded.