By MITCH SMITH and JULIE BOSMAN
© 2017 New York Times News Service
About 5,000 barrels of oil, or about 210,000 gallons, gushed out of the Keystone Pipeline on Thursday in South Dakota, blackening a grassy field in the remote northeast part of the state and sending cleanup crews and emergency workers scrambling to the site.
The spill, near Amherst, South Dakota, comes just days before regulators in neighboring Nebraska decide whether to grant the final permit needed to begin construction on a different pipeline proposal, the Keystone XL, which would be operated by the same company. An announcement in Nebraska is expected on Monday.
The pipeline company, TransCanada, said in a statement that the South Dakota leak was detected around 6 a.m. local time Thursday. The pipeline was shut down, and the cause of the leak was under investigation.
“TransCanada appreciates the collaborative support of local officials, emergency response personnel and commissioners in Marshall County, as well as the landowner who has given permission to access land for assessment, identification and cleanup activities,” the company said in its statement.
Opponents of Keystone XL, which is proposed to run about 1,100 miles and would become part of the Keystone system, quickly cited Thursday’s spill as evidence of the risks posed by such pipelines, and urged Nebraska regulators to take note.
Keystone XL has the strong support of President Donald Trump and most Republican politicians, but it has faced years of vocal opposition in Nebraska from some farmers and ranchers who worry that a spill could spoil their groundwater and decimate agricultural land.
Oil pipelines have faced greater scrutiny since thousands of protesters gathered near the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota last year to protest the Dakota Access Pipeline. The site of Thursday’s spill was near the boundaries of the Lake Traverse Reservation, home of the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate tribe.
Dave Flute, the tribal chairman of the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate, said he was contacted early in the afternoon by emergency management services and told that there was a “substantial leak” in the pipeline.