Trump’s January decision for pipeline extension highlighted with risk of environmental damage this week

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Controversial Pipeline Closed After Major Oil Leak

The controversial Keystone Pipeline has been shut down after the leak of 210,000 gallons of oil.

Crews closed the pipeline on Thursday morning in South Dakota. Officials are still investigating the cause of the 5,000-barrel spill. In April 2016, there was a 400-barrel releas, about 16,800 gallons, in South Dakota — with the majority of the cleanup completed in two months.

In January, four days after taking office, Donald Trump proclaimed a “historic” moment as he approved a $5.3 billion, 1,180-mile extension of the pipeline — Keystone XL — from Canada across Montana, South Dakota, and Nebraska despite possible environmental damage and its disturbance of Native American sacred land. Nebraska legislators are due to vote on Monday on whether the extension can proceed.

Brian Walsh, a spokesman for South Dakota’s Department of Environment and Natural Resources, said of Thursday’s spill,
“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.”

He said there were no initial reports of the oil spill affecting waterways, water systems, or wildlife.

TransCanada, the owner of the pipeline, declared that the spill has been controlled, with no further environmental impact and no threat to public safety.

But because the bitumen oil from Canada’s tar sands is so dense, seeping into the soil and river beds, rather than rising like conventional crude oil, the spill could be much larger than the declared 210,000 gallons. The April 2016 spill was initially estimated at only 187 gallons before being rvised upwards to 16,800.

In 2010, when more 800,000 gallons of tar sands oil spilled into the Kalamazoo River in Michigan, the clean-up took nearly three years and cost the company in charge, Enbridge, more than $1 billion.

The environmental activist group Greenpeace said the incident shows the Keystone XL extension should not be approved.

“The Nebraska Public Service Commission needs to take a close look at this spill,” said Rachel Rye Butler. “A permit approval allowing Canadian oil company TransCanada to build Keystone XL is a thumbs-up to likely spills in the future.”