After spilling more than 383,000 gallons of oil last month in North Dakota, the Keystone Pipeline is back in service. The company behind this faulty-arse piece of infrastructure, TC Energy, turned the pipeline back on Sunday at reduced pressure to make sure it’s operating properly. What’s more, this is the same company behind the plan to build the controversial Keystone XL Pipeline, and it’s showing no signs of slowing down even though its infrastructure is not immune to failure.
And that’s the problem: TC Energy can’t prevent these spills from happening, so why should it be allowed to build an even bigger project (*ahem* Keystone XL)? The growing threat of fossil fuel-driven climate change certainly doesn’t help the company’s case either. Addressing the climate crisis will require reducing our reliance on fossil fuels, so why are we expanding it?
The climate crisis and its impacts are long-term concerns, but the immediate concern about the Keystone Pipeline revolves around the oil spill that happened last month and its impact on the natural environment. In North Dakota, the spill affected a nearby wetland, and there’s always the risk that the oil may reach any groundwater below. TC Energy has said it “observed no significant impacts to the environment,” but that hasn’t stopped environmentalists and indigenous peoples to call for the end of this type of infrastructure altogether.
“This is what pipelines do: They spill,” said Chase Iron Eyes, lead counsel for the Lakota People’s Law Project and public relations director for Oglala Sioux Tribe President Julian Bear Runner, in an emailed press statement last week. “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.”
Clean up is still ongoing at the site of the Keystone spill. The latest update from TC Energy said that it’s recovered about 285,600 gallons of oil already, but it is still investigating what caused the incident. All this is happening as the company keeps moving forward with plans to build the highly contested Keystone XL, which would run 1,184 miles from Canada to the U.S. Up to 830,000 gallons of nasty crude oil would move through the pipeline every day. All that oil poses a serious threat to any wildlife that comes into contact with it, as well as to delicate water systems in the pipeline’s planned path.
Unfortunately, history doesn’t bode well for Keystone XL. Oil spills along the Keystone system have happened more than the company predicted during its environmental assessments according to a 2017 analysis by Reuters.
“There is no such thing as a safe fossil fuel pipeline, nor a future in which pipelines can exist without harming people and the planet,” said Kendall Mackey, 350.org U.S. Campaigner for Keep It in the Ground, in an online statement. “Indigenous people, farmers, and workers have been advocating for a just transition away from pipelines to 100% renewable energy.”
Despite all that, the pipeline is back to business as normal. TC Energy will be gradually increasing the system’s pressure to get Keystone back to its full capacity. For this company, it’s just another day—and that’s exactly why advocates are calling for the end of new pipelines and their expansions. Senator Bernie Sanders, who is running for president, called out the dangers of such infrastructure on Twitter, noting he would shut down the Keystone Pipeline if he were president.
While the Trump administration has sped along pipeline approvals, reversing them seems to be an action many candidates, such as Senator Elizabeth Warren and Julián Castro, would be willing to take. If we’re going to fight the climate crisis and protect natural ecosystems, the people need a leader who’s willing to take up the challenge of transitioning us off this dirty fuel for good. Or more spills will certainly happen. They always do.