176,000 gallons of oil spilled at North Dakota pipeline

176,000 gallons of oil spilled at North Dakota pipeline
A pipeline in North Dakota spilled over 176,000 gallons of oil before it was shut down, state officials say. The spill happened 150 miles from the Dakota Access pipeline protests, with thousands of people rallying against the construction for months.

The data initially came from the state’s Department of Health spokeswoman Jennifer Skjod.

The last week's blizzard in the area hampered the efforts to assess the damage, and the authorities “have no estimate on when or if it will be operational,” Skjod said as quoted by The Huffington Post.

It's not entirely clear what caused the spill, either, according to Wendy Owen, a spokeswoman for the plant's owner, Wyoming-based True Companies.

The pipeline is partly buried on a hill near Ash Coulee creek, and the “hillside sloughed,” which could have broken the pipeline, Owen told AP.

“That is our No.1 theory but nothing is definitive. We have several working theories and the investigation is ongoing.”

The leak was found by a land owner about a week ago, and usually, such spills should be monitored by a special system, but this time, it failed due to “the intermittent nature of the flow,” Owen added.

About 60 workers were at the location where the leak happened on Monday, and the clean-up efforts were going at about 90 meters per day. Some of the oil is still trapped beneath the creek which is now frozen.

Over the past decade, True Companies has declared 36 other spills, leaking some 320,000 gallons of petroleum products, according to AP figures. The company operates over 2,500km of pipeline in Montana, North Dakota and Wyoming.

Since 2006, authorities have proposed $537,500 in penalties, of which the company paid $397,200.

The area where the latest leak happened is about 240km from the site where the Standing Rock Sioux tribe and their allies have been protesting against the construction of the Dakota Access pipeline. The building of the pipeline could put under threat the indigenous population's only water source, Lake Oahe, with the tribe also saying that the construction could damage lands they view as sacred.

The plan has now been halted, with the Obama administration having announced last week that it wouldn't grant an easement for the Energy Transfer Partners to build the final section of the pipeline.

The company is sure that the permission will be granted when the President-elect Donald Trump is in power.

Both the developer and the tribe are going to court next year to solve the matter: ETP argued that it is losing $20 million each week that the pipeline isn't functioning, but the judge was unsympathetic, and is set to hear the arguments no earlier than February.