Environmental activists believe an oil spill 150 miles from the Dakota Access Pipeline has validated many of their concerns related to the recently rejected project.
Dakota protesters have claimed for months that an oil spill at the so-called DAPL is inevitable, despite assurances made by Energy Transfer Partners, the company involved building the multi-billion-dollar pipeline.
North Dakota officials estimate that nearly 176,000 gallons of crude oil has leaked from the Belle Fourche Pipeline into the Ash Coulee Creek. The leak was discovered and contained within a couple of hours, Wendy Owen, a spokeswoman for the company operating the Belle Fourche pipeline, told CNBC.
Activists have seized on the spill to justify their protests.
Tara Houska, an American Indian environmental activist, told reporters Tuesday that the oil spill was “yet another example of what happens when you have lax regulations written by oil companies and their patrons.”
Standing Rock Sioux, one of the American Indian tribes opposing the pipeline, spent several months demonstrating against the $3.7 billion project, arguing the pipeline’s construction would trample on tribal lands and destroy artifacts. They also believe it could potentially poison waterways, including rivers such as the Missouri River and Lake Oahe.
The Army Corps of Engineers rejected the DAPL on Dec. 4 after initially approving the multi-state project, which would produce 470,000 barrels of Bakken crude oil per day from western North Dakota to southern Illinois.
Regulators argue that, despite the Belle Fourche Pipeline spill, pipelines are cheaper and safer than other forms of transportation.
Oil lines that are federally-regulated such as the DAPL tend to use a greater abundance of precautionary measures during construction and maintenance, while state-controlled lines only sometimes have necessary safety protocols, former pipeline regulator Brigham McCown told The Daily Caller News Foundation.
“Other pipelines are subject to state jurisdiction or even federal jurisdiction are often subject to less rigorous requirements,” McCown said of the differences between DAPL and the Belle Fourche Pipeline, “so I don’t think it’s fair to compare the two.”
The DAPL is under federal jurisdiction and therefore “subject to the highest level of federal regulations,” said McCown, who served as a pipeline safety regulator with the Bush administration.
Oil leaks from pipelines are safer than those caused by train derailments and truck wrecks, namely because of a line’s safety measures, according to a study conducted in 2015 by the Fraser Institute, a free market centered in Canada.
Moving oil and gas by pipeline in Canada was 4.5 times safer between 2003-2013, than moving the same volume the same distance by rail, according to the study.
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