North Dakota Oil Spill A Cause For Concern, Critics Say

An oil spill in North Dakota is a cause for concern, especially for critics of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline. The spill, which happened last month, spread more than 865,000 gallons of oil across a farm near Tioga owned by Steven Jensen.

Jensen discovered the spill while farming his fields on September 29, though he smelled oil for several days before. But in an area so close to the booming Bakken shale field, the scent of oil is hardly uncommon.

The rupture allowed a six-inch spurt of oil to seep up from Jensen’s land — an indication of a ruptured Tesoro Logistics pipeline. The New York Times reports that the North Dakota spill is one of the largest accidents along an inland oil pipeline in the United States.

For critics, the spill is a cause for concern, especially as the Obama administration considers approving the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, which would run a type of Canadian crude to American refineries on the Gulf Coast.

The oil in Jensen’s fields is hard to contain, though luckily the accident happened in a remote area that was away from water and homes. However, the Keystone’s crude is especially difficult to clean up once it spills. The Los Angeles Times notes that no one knows how long the pipeline was leaking before Jensen discovered it, or why sensors along the pipe failed to detect a leak.

However, the impact of the North Dakota oil spill is still there, and the farmer estimated that more than 20 acres of his land were affected. While Tesoro is working to contain the oil, Jensen is still worried that it could seep into the groundwater and cause more problems.

North Dakota has also been criticized for its handling of the spill, which state Senator Mac Schneider explained he had to read about in the papers. Schneider is one who believes in informing the public, saying that it would help citizens “have confidence that their officials are responding appropriately.”

For Kris Roberts, who is leading the North Dakota Health Department’s work with Tesoro on the cleanup effort, the public didn’t need to know about the spill immediately. Roberts explained, “It’s on top of a low hill, in the middle of a field, in an area with no residents at all.” He added, “The public has a right to know,” but explained the information didn’t need to be immediately known.

Cleanup from the North Dakota oil spill will take about a year, according to Tesoro, and will likely cost about $6 million.

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