The Keystone pipeline, lightning rod of fossil fuel controversy, has spilled about 14,000 barrels of crude oil in a creek in Washington County, Kansas.
TC Energy, the Canada-based company that operates the onshore pipeline, reported that they shut the Keystone system down on Wednesday night only 7 minutes after a drop in pressure set off alerts. The amount spilled is an estimate, but they say the affected segment of the pipeline has been “isolated” and the spill contained.
If their estimate is accurate, this is the largest onshore crude oil spill in a decade and the largest for the Keystone pipeline system, but not its first. Two leaks in 2016 and 2017 spilled approximately 10,000 barrels, and a rupture in North Dakota spilled an estimated 9,120 barrels, most of which was recovered. In total, there have been 22 previous spills on the Keystone pipeline in its 12 years of operation. The pipeline carries approximately 600,000 barrels of oil per day from Canada to Oklahoma, and sought a permit to pump oil through at a higher pressure just before the 2016 spill.
The transportation secretary, Pete Buttigieg, on Friday tweeted that the government was investigating.
“We are monitoring & investigating the Keystone Pipeline leak first detected Weds night,” his tweet read. “Our Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration has issued a Corrective Action Order requiring a shutdown of the affected segment, analysis of the cause, and other safety measures.”
“Our primary focus right now is the health and safety of onsite staff and personnel, the surrounding community and mitigating risk to the environment,” said a statement released by TC Energy.
The protests around the Keystone Pipeline all predicted that it would pose a catastrophic risk to waterways. Those protests, and the cancellation of a US permit by President Biden, led to TC Energy canceling plans for a major expansion to the pipeline last year, after many years of litigation.