FARGO — Tribal leaders in the Dakotas are bolstering their protests against the expansion of the Dakota Access oil pipeline and the installment of the Keystone XL line, after hundreds of thousands of gallons of oil spilled in northeastern North Dakota last week.
The Keystone pipeline released about 383,040 gallons of oil in Walsh County, the North Dakota Department of Environmental Quality said Thursday, Oct. 31. There was no indication at the time that the spill had an impact on drinking water, according to an official at the state’s division of water quality.
The incident reinforced worries about a spill from the highly contested Dakota Access Pipeline and the yet-to-be-installed Keystone XL pipeline.
“This is what pipelines do,” said Chase Iron Eyes, lead counsel for the Lakota People’s Law Project. “They spill.”
The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe protested the installment of the Dakota Access Pipeline for nearly a year before newly minted President Donald Trump reversed his predecessor’s order and allowed the pipeline’s construction to continue. The tribe is still battling the line in court and disputing Texas-based Energy Transfer’s plan to double capacity from 570,000 barrels per day to 1.1 million. In South Dakota, tribes are protesting plans for the Keystone XL pipeline.
“This latest Keystone leak demonstrates why we stood against Dakota Access in the first place, why we’re doing so again now, and why we’re prepared to fight Keystone XL every step of the way,” Iron Eyes said in a Tuesday news release from the Lakota People’s Law Project.
“They keep bringing these projects to our homelands against our wishes,” Oglala Sioux Tribe President Julian Bear Runner said in the release. “It’s an ongoing pattern of environmental racism.”
Two years ago, the Keystone pipeline spilled more than 200,000 gallons in northeastern South Dakota, according to the National Transportation Safety Board. Later reports showed the spill was likely double what was originally recorded.
"Pipelines are not safe, they are not secure, and they present a danger to our natural resources, our cultural resources, and our people," said President Rodney M. Bordeaux of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe in South Dakota.
On Wednesday, Nov. 13, the North Dakota Public Service Commission will hold a hearing on the plans to double the Dakota Access Pipeline’s capacity. Standing Rock Tribal Chairman Mike Faith said he hopes allies will support the tribes in their message.
“That pipeline should be pulled out of the ground,” he said. “And Keystone XL should be stopped as well.”
Bordeaux said Rosebud will continue to support Standing Rock, saying: “The next seven generations are depending on us to make sure our cultural and natural resources are more than just a memory."