What’s in a name? Perhaps it depends on what a company is selling. In the case of TransCanada Corporation based in Calgary, Alberta, the firm’s main product, it could be argued, is an environmental mess.
If TransCanada is so proud of its business model, why did it change its name to TC Energy in May 2019? Officials with the company would have everyone believe that the new name better reflects the company’s business, which includes pipelines, power generation and energy storage operations throughout North America.
But let’s focus on the company’s pipeline operations—namely, its infamous Keystone pipeline, the first phase of which runs through North Dakota and came on line in 2010.
If Halloweens aren’t spooky enough, the original Keystone pipeline spilled at least 9,120 barrels (380,000 gallons) of tar sands oil and toxic diluents into wetlands in northeastern North Dakota on Oct. 30 of this year.
That amount of oil is enough to halfway fill an Olympic-sized swimming pool, and it marks the 21st spill on the Keystone pipeline since 2010. (Not all these spills have occurred in North Dakota.)
The viscosity of tar sands oil, or “bitumen,” resembles peanut butter. The combination of bitumen and the diluents that enable this oil to flow in a pipeline is called “dilbit.” When spilled, dilbit will float, but the diluent is eventually blown off into the atmosphere, and the heavier bitumen sinks, according to Diane Orihel, an assistant professor in ecotoxicology at Queens University in Kingston, Ontario.
The latest spill in North Dakota occurred near Edinburg and covered about 22,500 square feet of wetlands surface area.
Self-proclaimed “valve turner” Michael Foster received a three-year sentence (two years deferred) in Pembina County Court for shutting down an emergency valve of the Keystone pipeline near Walhalla in October 2016. He was eventually granted early release from prison.
Edinburg is about 30 miles directly south of where Foster committed his “crime” of civil disobedience. Instead of imprisoning people like Foster, perhaps North Dakotans living along the line of the Keystone pipeline should be sending Foster thank-you cards.