Bernie Sanders has blasted the Keystone pipeline leak in a press release dated April 12. The pipeline was shut down on Sunday, April 3, after a leak was discovered. The mainstream media treated the leak as little more than a footnote, with no major coverage on any networks. Most of the coverage of the leak in South Dakota appeared on alternative news sites such as ThinkProgress.
The Wall Street Journal devoted less than 200 words to a piece announcing the pipeline was reopening after parent company TransCanada made repairs to it.
Sanders’ press release was sharply critical of the Keystone pipeline, which pumps tar sands oil at high pressure across tribal lands in South Dakota.
“This past week, an existing leg of the TransCanada Keystone pipeline leaked almost 17,000 gallons of tar sands oil, threatening to destroy tribal lands in Freeman, South Dakota. The instability of these pipelines pose serious threats to Native American land, our lakes and rivers, and the health of all South Dakotans. These are just some of the many reasons why I have, from Day One, fought against the Keystone XL Pipeline, the Alberta Clipper and opposed freaked oil pipelines throughout the United States.
“I stand with our Native American brothers and sisters in South Dakota and as president will continue to fight with them to protect their native lands from companies who seek to destroy their homes for profit.”
Sanders is the only candidate who has actively enlisted the help of prominent Native Americans in his quest to make his campaign about everyone, not just young, white males. He is the only campaign to address the specific issues in-depth, facing tribal nations today. Sanders understands the value of input from all communities and demographics in order to get a better perspective on how economic, racial and societal issues affect everyone. Oil pipelines are just one of the many issues Native Americans face today.
Originally, TransCanada reported that only 187 gallons of crude oil had spilled. It was later discovered that the oil spill had actually leaked 16,800 gallons, a far greater amount than originally thought.
ThinkProgress reports that TransCanada has not yet revealed the cause of the leak, and it is unlikely the company will. The leak, and the volume of oil spilled, is significant because tar sands oil is harder to clean up than regular oil.
In 2013, Forbes published a scathing indictment of the now-failed Keystone XL (which would have expanded the existing pipeline). Contributor James Conca indicated the long history of pipeline leaks, noting “we just don’t maintain them like we should.”
“It’s not that these pipelines and rigs can’t be run safely, it’s that they aren’t. Maybe the managers and operators who originally built them once cared, but after they’ve retired or died, the new managers don’t have the same ownership.”
Reuters reports that the pipeline restarted at reduced pressure after the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration approved the company’s plans to restart. TransCanada has said it will do aerial patrols and visual inspections during the pipeline’s restart. But what happens later? How often will the company inspect the pipeline for leaks? Once a day? Once a week? Once a year? Never?
Sanders correctly criticizes tar sands pipelines as a serious environmental threat. As Conca wrote in 2013, the companies simply do not maintain them like they should, and therein lies the danger.
The Oil Shale & Tar Sands Programmatic EIS website describes tar sands oil as a mixture of “bitumen, clay, sand, and water,” which means it is so thick it needs to be diluted with hydrocarbons for transport through the pipeline.
As Sanders notes, the environmental impact of the Keystone pipeline (and tar sands oil in general) is ultimately greater in the long-term than the short-term benefits. The impact includes destroying mined land, disrupting wildlife, and lowered water quality as a result of mining operations.
Sanders has a strong record of environmental action and legislation, and he considers climate change the most important issue facing the world today.
In July 1015, Sanders made clear his position on the Keystone pipeline matter.
“It is hard for me to understand how one can be concerned about climate change but not vigorously oppose the Keystone pipeline.”
[Photo by Kenneth Gabrielsen/Getty]