Shannon Marvel reports that Dakota Access spilled two barrels of oil at its pumping station near Crandon, South Dakota, in April. DENR environmental scientist Brian Walsh says don’t worry much:
Walsh said all the crude oil was recovered through absorbent materials and was contained in drums, then put back into the line. Dakota Access was responsible for cleaning up the spill, which it has done, he said.
The state will not fine or issue a citation against the company since the spill was reported and cleaned up within the required time frame, Walsh said.
The spilled crude oil, which is roughly equal to two barrels, is a very small amount compared to the 470,000 barrels of crude oil the pipeline is designed to carry in a day.
“The whole pump station is lined because they have some above-ground pipeline infrastructure there, so if it does leak it makes it easier to clean up and safer for the environment,” Walsh said [Shannon Marvel, “SD Looking into Dakota Access Oil Pipeline Leak in Spink County,” Aberdeen American News, 2017.05.10].
Two barrels isn’t much, but apparently this leak comes before Texas pipeliner Energy Transfer Partners fills the line starts pumping 470,000 barrels a day by June 1. Two barrels is also a trickle compared to the 4,800 barrels Energy Transfer Partners and its Dakota Access collaborators have spilled in the last couple years on other projects:
The Louisiana Bucket Brigade, which is fighting a sister pipeline to Dakota Access there, together with Disastermap.net, studied 2015 and 2016 data from the National Response Center, the federal agency that tracks the discharge of oil, chemicals, and other pollutants into the environment.
Energy Transfer and Sunoco were involved in 69 incidents — including 35 pipeline accidents — over the two-year period, the analysis found. The accidents caused eight injuries and $300,000 in damage, the report found.
“It is a pretty sobering experience to go through these spreadsheets,” said Anne Rolfes, founding director of the Louisiana Bucket Brigade, an environmental group. “To sift through all these pages really gives you an idea of the destruction” [Kevin Hardy, “Spills Plague Dakota Access Pipeline Builders, Environmental Groups Find,” Des Moines Register, 2017.02.06].
Cleaning up two barrels of spilled oil at the Spink County pump station took less effort that getting ETP to live up to its promise to replace the trees it tore up in North Dakota:
A December report from third-party inspector Keitu Engineers and Consultants Inc. identified 83 sites along the 380-mile (610-kilometer) pipeline corridor in North Dakota where trees might have been cleared in violation of the commission’s orders. The report by analyst Dean Mostad doesn’t estimate the number of trees involved.
Granado insisted to The Associated Press that ETP didn’t violate terms of its permit. Mike Futch, ETP’s pipeline project manager in North Dakota, said in a letter to commission attorney John Schuh in March that it’s possible the company cleared the disputed areas of trees before the company and commission agreed in June 2016 how large an area could be cleared. The company submitted its tree replacement plan in April.
That plan calls for two trees to be planted for every one that was removed — a total of about 94,000 trees — and for the company to inspect them annually for three years to monitor survival rates. The PSC must approve the plan.
A law firm representing numerous landowners on Monday filed a consultant’s report that contends ETP’s tree replacement plan includes far fewer species than were removed and that a “flawed approach” to soil work could result in trees “being planted and growing well for five or ten years, then dying” [Blake Nicholson, “Dakota Access Pipeline Developer Involved in Tree Dispute,” AP via Bismarck Tribune, 2017.05.05].
In South Dakota, ETP may not have to replace any trees. Our PUC’s Dakota Access permit conditions include the following:
- Condition #23: “If trees are to be removed that have commercial or other value to affected landowners, Dakota Access shall compensate the landowner for the fair market value of the trees to be cleared and/or allow the landowner the right to retain ownership of the felled trees.
- Condition #37: “To facilitate periodic aerial patrol pipeline leak surveys during operation of the facilities: in wetland and riparian areas, a minimum corridor of 30 feet centered on the pipeline centerline (15 feet on either side), shall be maintained in an herbaceous state. Trees within the corridor greater than 15 feet in height may be selectively cut and removed from the permanent right-of-way.”
ETP’s South Dakota agriculture mitigation plan promises to restore topsoil and grasses and plant cover crops in affected areas and refers to clearing trees, but it says nothing about replacing them.
We’d have fewer oil spills and more trees if we drove fewer cars.