Monday, September 25, 2023
Courthouse News Service
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Small Oil Spill Shuts Down Keystone Pipeline

FREEMAN, S.D. (CN) - A section of the TransCanada Pipeline, also known as the Keystone pipeline, will remain shut down until the end of the week after an oil slick was discovered above ground in a field near Freeman, South Dakota on Saturday.

TransCanada spokesman Mark Cooper told Courthouse News that the spill was "small in scope," although its exact size will not be determined until TransCanada's investigation concludes. The spill affected a surface area of about 30 feet by 10 feet and occurred about four miles from the company's pump station in Freeman, Cooper said.

"Overnight and today TransCanada has continued to make progress in exposing segments of the pipeline to determine the source of the oil and extent of the incident," Cooper said in an update late Tuesday night.

TransCanada crews are working on the site around the clock, with oversight from the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration and state agencies, Cooper said.

TransCanada is also reporting no significant environmental impact or public-safety risk from the spill.

Not everyone is convinced, however. Thomasina Real Bird, an attorney for the Yankton Sioux Tribe - which opposes the pipeline - told Courthouse News, "The Yankton Sioux Tribe is deeply concerned that the spill occurred and, in particular, that the company's highly touted detection system did not detect it. The tribe believes it is time the company came clean with the citizens of South Dakota and admitted the system failed and it is not reliable. In the end, it did not take advanced engineering to detect the spill just as it does not take an engineer to tell the citizens of South Dakota that it will spill again."

The spill is located about 30 miles as the crow flies from the edge of the Yankton Sioux Reservation, and about 45 miles away by road.

"The Yankton Sioux Tribe has not been directly informed of the details of the spill even though it is within close proximity to the reservation and is on historical lands," Real Bird added. "The lack of direct information from the company to the tribe is disappointing. The tribe remains unrelenting in its pursuit to protect its citizens, the lands, the air, and the water that provide life to all."

Along with the Yankton Sioux Tribe, the Rosebud Sioux Tribe and the Intertribal Council on Utility Policy have appealed the state's renewal of the TransCanada permit.

But the political climate toward oil pipelines in South Dakota remains relatively favorable.

President Barack Obama announced his opposition to the TransCananda pipeline at the end of 2015, and South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard expressed his disappointment in the president's stance. In early 2016, South Dakota's Public Utilities Commission renewed TransCanada's permit for its pipeline to cross the state despite the presidential objection.

A few months earlier, the commission approved another unrelated pipeline project, the Dakota Access Pipeline, making South Dakota the first state to do so.

An informal poll conducted by area newspaper the Freeman Courier revealed that locals are not particularly concerned about the spill, although the poll only had 66 responses as of Wednesday morning. Twenty-nine of the respondents reported being either "moderately" or "very" concerned as opposed to 37 who are not worried.

The town has a population of about 1,200.

For more information on the spill, TransCanada can be reached at 1-855-895-8754 or [email protected].

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