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Pipeline spills 176,000 gallons of crude into North Dakota creek

15 December 2016

A pipeline leak has spilled tens of thousands of gallons of crude oil into a North Dakota creek roughly 150 miles from Cannon Ball, where protesters are opposing the Dakota Access pipeline. Officials said more than 176,000 gallons of crude oil leaked from the Belle Fourche Pipeline into the Ash Coulee Creek near the city of Belfield and caused pollution up to six miles downstream.

Stock image
Stock image

The leak was contained within hours of the its discovery, Wendy Owen, a spokeswoman for Casper, Wyoming-based True Cos., which operates the Belle Fourche pipeline, told CNBC. It was not yet clear why electronic monitoring equipment did not detect the leak, Owen said earlier.

State environmental scientist Bill Suess said a landowner discovered the spill on December 5 and it had fouled an unknown amount of private and US Forest Service land along the waterway. The 6-inch steel Belle Fourche pipeline is used to gather oil from nearby wells to a collection point. Suess said that no drinking water sources were threatened and 37,000 gallons of oil had been recovered by December 12.

True Cos. has experienced a number of oil field–related spills in North Dakota and Montana, including a January 2015 pipeline break into the Yellowstone River. The 32,000-gallon spill temporarily shut down water supplies in the downstream community of Glendive, Montana, after oil was detected in the city's water treatment system.

It operates at least three pipeline companies with a combined 1,648 miles of line in Montana, North Dakota and Wyoming, according to information the companies submitted to federal regulators. Since 2006, the companies have reported 36 spills totaling 320,000 gallons of petroleum products, most of which was never recovered.

This leak is 150 miles from the Dakota Access pipeline protest camp where members of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe and environmentalists are fighting the major pipeline project on the grounds that it could put water sources in jeopardy and would destroy sacred land.

The Army Corp of Engineers has said it would deny Dallas-based Energy Transfer Partners the easement it needs to complete the final stretch of the $3.7 billion pipeline. United States Assistant Secretary of the Army Jo-Ellen Darcy said the best path forward was to explore alternative routes for the pipeline, something Energy Transfer Partners says it will not do.

Energy Transfer Partners says the Dakota Access pipeline would include safeguards such as leak detection equipment and that workers monitoring the pipeline remotely in Texas could close valves within three minutes if a breach is detected.

Republican President-elect Donald Trump has voiced support for the Dakota Access Pipeline. About 5,000 people are still occupying land near the planned construction site.

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