Keystone I Tar Sands Pipeline Spills 210,000 Gallons

TransCanada has announced that its Keystone I tar sands pipeline has spilled 210,000 gallons of tar sands oil on farmlands in South Dakota. This spill comes days before Nebraska’s Public Service Commission (PSC) decides whether to approve TransCanada’s proposed route for the larger Keystone XL tar sands pipeline through the state’s farmlands and aquifers.

While details are still emerging around this spill, we know it occurred in Marshall County on South Dakota’s northern border. This is actually Keystone’s third major spill in South Dakota, with the first being a 21,000 gallon tar sands spill which occurred in its first year of operation and a 16,800 gallon spill which happened last year. TransCanada’s seven year old Keystone pipeline has been hounded by safety issues, with 35 spills in both Canada and the United States in its first year of operation alone. Meanwhile, documents acquired by DeSmog blog reveal the pipeline has experienced significant levels of corrosion—in one section 95% of the pipeline had corroded.

When TransCanada first proposed Keystone I, the company promised a state-of-the-art pipeline which would “meet or exceed world-class safety and environmental standards.” In its environmental risk assessment, the company forecast Keystone would leak no more than 1.4 times a decade. The pipeline is not yet ten years old—and has leaked dozens of times, spilling hundreds of thousands of gallons along its route.

Meanwhile, TransCanada has pitched Keystone XL, its proposed 830,000 barrel per day tar sands, in similar terms, citing similar technology and safety procedures. Moreover, in the years since TransCanada first proposed Keystone XL, a National Academy of Science study concluded that tar sands spills are much more damaging to the environment and difficult to clean.

This spill should be a stark warning for Nebraska’s PSC as it considers TransCanada’s proposed route for Keystone XL through some of the state’s most sensitive farmlands and aquifers. Pipelines spill—and TransCanada’s first tar sands pipeline has spilled more than most. Based on the safety record of Keystone I, Nebraska’s PSC should carefully consider the impacts of TransCanada’s much larger Keystone XL pipeline as it weighs its decision on Monday. 

About the Authors

Anthony Swift

Director, Canada Project, International Program

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