The leaks prove that the water protectors have been right all along. The pool of tar it left behind is also a warning of what’s to come
Energy Transfer Partners’ not yet operational Dakota Access pipeline leaked 84 gallons – or about a bathtub-full – of shale oil at a pump station in Spink County, South Dakota, on 4 April. The station stands roughly 100 miles south-east of the site of indigenous protest encampments along the Missouri river, where for months in 2016 the Standing Rock Sioux’s stand against Dakota Access captivated the world.
Despite enduring controversy over the Dakota Access pipeline, the South Dakota department of environment and natural resources did not issue a press release about the mishap because the department deals with pipeline leaks all the time. The department only issues a press release when a detected leak threatens drinking water, fisheries or public health. It logged the Dakota Access incident in its database, but the spill remained unknown to the public for over a month until local reporter Shannon Marvel broke the story for Aberdeen, South Dakota’s American News on Wednesday.
The relatively minor leak demonstrates the risk of technological and human failure inherent in crude oil pipelines. Just a few months earlier, on 5 December 2016, a North Dakota landowner discovered a massive, undetected 176,000-gallon oil leak polluting a creek 150 miles north of Standing Rock.
A month after that, a pipeline farther north in the Western Canadian province of Saskatchewan leaked over 52,000 gallons of crude on the territory of the Ocean Man First Nation. As indigenous peoples, ranchers and environmentalists have repeatedly stated, the question is when and where pipelines will leak – not if.
As Donald Trump and the oil industry gear up to push forward Keystone XL and other pipelines across the US, we can expect talking heads to take to the press and cable networks to tell us that pipelines are safer than trains for the transport of crude, that regulations have stolen jobs in the heartland and that energy independence from the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries is paramount to our national economic and security interests.
From corporate offices in Houston and Dallas and network headquarters in midtown Manhattan, these snake oil salesmen will tell us not to worry – the benefits of pipelines far outweigh the costs. Drill, baby, drill, and America will be great again.
To them, the benefits of pipelines look pretty sweet. Energy Transfer Partners CEO Kelcy Warren – who has a reported net worth of $4.4bn – lives in a 23,000-square-foot home on 10 acres in Dallas’s elite Preston Hollow neighborhood, where houses sell for tens of millions of dollars and where Warren’s six-bedroom, 13-bath home features a four-lane bowling alley, a chip-and-putt green, a pole-vault pit and a 200-seat…