On Thursday November 15th, 2017, approximately 210,000 gallons or 5,000 barrels of oil spilled from the TransCanada Keystone Pipeline in a northeast part of South Dakota.
The spill in Amherst, S.D. happened a few days before regulators in Nebraska were to decide whether to grant a final permit to begin construction on the Keystone XL Pipeline in that state.
According to a statement from TransCanada, “[C]rews safely shut down its Keystone pipeline at approximately 6 a.m. CST (5 a.m. MST) after a drop in pressure was detected in its operating system resulting from an oil leak that is under investigation. The estimated volume of the leak is approximately 5,000 barrels.”
Kim McIntosh, an environmental scientist with the South Dakota Department of Environment and Natural Resources, who gave a statement to the New York Times said, no livestock or drinking water sources appeared to be threatened. However, she stated, “This is not a little spill from any perspective.”
Faith Spotted Eagle is an activist and a member of the Yankton Sioux Nation who has long fought against development of the Keystone XL pipeline and the Dakota Access Pipeline. Spotted Eagle told Indian Country Today that the spill, though tragic, was not surprising.
“I think that this is no surprise. Seriously if these people do not take this little nudge from the Great Mystery, they are going to go to that place that starts with a ‘H.’ If they don’t have a grandchild that they are not concerned about, then they do not have a heart.”
Spotted Eagle says she and other tribal leaders in Lower Brule will be delivering formal remarks on Monday about the Keystone XL Pipeline at the Golden Buffalo Casino Conference Center.
“The Nebraska permit decision is being announced on Monday. Following that we are going to have a press conference at 11:15 am with tribal leaders and other leaders,” she said.
A photograph of the spill was posted to the TransCanada Twitter account, which shows a large circular oil spill by the Keystone Pipeline. The Keystone is a nearly 2,700 mile pipeline that carries crude from Alberta to the U.S.
— TransCanada (@TransCanada) November 16, 2017
The S.D. environmental official McIntosh also told the NY Times that the leak of 210,000 gallons was not substantial and that the area was rural, which is “very positive.”
Spotted Eagle said regardless of its location, it isn’t positive. ”Everywhere on Mother Earth is not remote, it is all connected to the entire ecosystem.”
Tribal chairman Dave Flute of the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate learned Thursday about a leak in the pipeline. In a statement, Chairman Flute said, “We are monitoring the situation as this leak is adjacent to our reservation. We do not know the impact this has on our environment at this time but we are aware of the leak.”
John Dossett, who serves as General Counsel at the National Congress of the American Indians told Indian Country Today that such disasters are unfortunately more a matter of ‘when’ as opposed to ‘if.’
“Tribes in the Missouri River basin have spent a lot of time studying the risks of the Dakota Access Pipeline,” said Dossett.
“The bottom line is that pipeline spills are inevitable, it is not a question of if but when. Where lands or waters are affected by a federal decision, the trust duty requires that the government must protect tribal interests. Tribes are not opposed to development, they often welcome it. But this most recent spill underscores the need for tribal rights to be fully considered and protected by the federal trustee.”
Indian Country Today’s Vincent Schilling (Akwesasne Mohawk) on Twitter