In Brief

Keystone Pipeline leaks 210,000 gallons of oil

Operators TransCanada say leak is ‘completely isolated’, but officials may decide not to grant permit for second pipeline

The Keystone Pipeline, the subject of a controversial extension plan, has been shut down after it leaked almost 210,000 gallons of oil in the US state of South Dakota.

TransCanda, the company that operates the pipeline, said the leak was “completely isolated within 15 minutes and emergency response procedures were activated” as soon as it was discovered on Thursday morning. Officials are investigating the cause.

The spill occurred just southeast of the small town of Amherst in northeast South Dakota, and is the largest leak from the Keystone Pipeline to date.

Brian Walsh, an environmental scientist manager at the South Dakota department of environment and natural resources, told The Guardian that “officials do not believe the leak affected any surface water bodies or threatened any drinking water systems from the spill on to agricultural land”.

For TransCanada, however, the timing of the spill may prove problematic. The Calgary-based firm is hoping to secure a permit for a long-delayed sister pipeline called Keystone XL. On Monday, the Public Service Commission in Nebraska will decide whether or not to grant a permit for the second pipeline, the Washington Post reports.

Keystone XL has been the subject of controversy ever since it was proposed almost a decade ago, provoking “persistent opposition from environmental groups, American Indian tribes and some landowners”, says CBS.

Former US President Barack Obama had rejected all plans for Keystone XL, but Donald Trump issued a federal permit approving the project in March, fulfilling a campaign promise.

The Canadian government has also given the go-ahead, as have the Canadian provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan and the US states of Montana and South Dakota. All eyes are now on Nebraska's next move, as the extension will not be possible without its approval.

Nebraska - on paper - has good cause to be sceptical about the pipeline. “If this spill had happened along the proposed route in Nebraska, it would be absolutely devastating,” Brian Jorde, a lawyer representing Nebraska landowners opposed to Keystone XL, told Reuters. “Their proposed route is within a mile of thousands of water wells.”

Although environmental concerns cannot legally influence Monday’s decision, as the Keystone XL pipeline has already been issued an environmental permit, many anti-Keystone campaigners called for a rethink.

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