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Grant Whittington headshot

Dakota Access Pipeline Developers Linked to 69 Spills in Two Years


In the past two years, the companies responsible for heading the Dakota Access Pipeline reported 69 incidents accounting for nearly 550,000 gallons of oil spilled. Thirty-five of the incidents -- or 51 percent -- were pipeline related, according to a report from a Louisiana nonprofit. 

The report, compiled by the Louisiana Bucket Brigade, a health organization promoting the safety and importance of the environment, used data filed with the National Response Center to complete the investigation. The 15-year-old nonprofit primarily serves 'fenceline communities' -- those near a dump, refinery or chemical plant.

The 69 incidents the Brigade cataloged spanned 14 states, though Texas stood out with a whopping 32 incidents. 

The main company spearheading the $3.78 billion project that would connect crude oil transportation services from northwest North Dakota to Illinois is Energy Transfer Partners (ETP), along with some Sunoco subsidiaries. The construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline made headlines for months thanks to protests over environmental and wildlife concerns from environmentalists and Native Americans.

The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, the most vocal and prominent group to protest construction, says the further development of the pipeline will jeopardize the safety of their drinking water. And the Louisiana Bucket Brigade suggests the tribe has a point.

According to their report, ETP’s oil spills polluted four rivers in four states -- Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Louisiana and Texas -- over the last 24 months. The water was a drinking source in 3 of the 4 rivers polluted, “Thereby confirming the concerns of the Standing Rock Sioux who fear the Dakota Access Pipeline would pollute the Missouri River,” the Brigade concluded.

President Donald Trump gave the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers the green light to resume construction of the pipeline on Jan. 24. ETP immediately started building, company spokeswoman Vicki Granado told the Hill. Of a total 1,134 miles, only 1.5 remain -- which involve drilling under Lake Oahe in North Dakota.

The project saw its fair share of challenges following mass protests over environmental concerns and the eventual hesitation of the Obama administration, which sought to investigate alternative routes so as not to affect the Standing Rock Sioux.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said in early December it would undertake a comprehensive environmental review of the drilling under Lake Oahe. Trump, quick to reverse his predecessor's pause, asked for an expedited report and told the Corps it was okay for ETP to resume construction.

Following the start of construction underneath Lake Oahe, the pipeline could be operational in just 60 to 80 days, the Washington Post reported.

For the Native Americans in North Dakota, they just want to be assured their drinking water will remain pure and plentiful. The Standing Rock Sioux rely solely on Lake Oahe and the Missouri River for their water source and would have to find alternative means if the water is contaminated with oil leaking through the pipes.

ETP, a company guilty of a shocking number of incidents including oil, natural gas and gasoline spills, must build carefully.

Image credit: Flickr/Fibonacci Blue

Grant Whittington headshot

Based in Atlanta, GA, Grant is a nonprofit professional and freelance writer passionate about affordable housing and finding sustainable approaches to international development. A proud graduate of the University of Maryland, Grant spent four months post-grad living in Armenia where he worked for Habitat for Humanity and the World Food Programme. He enjoys playing trivia with friends but is still seeking his first victory - he ceaselessly blames his friends lack of preparation.

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