Almost 300 oil pipeline spills occurred in North Dakota in less than two years, and the public were not alerted about any of them.
Data shows that from January 2012 – September 2013 the pipeline spills were seen as part of around 750 “oil field incidents” that also occurred without the public being informed, according to a report by The Associated Press. 4,328 barrels worth of oil were estimated to have spilled in this period.
A similar case in which a Tesoro Corp. pipeline burst resulted in approximately 20,600 barrels of oil covering an area the same size as seven football fields.
The official line was that the spills had done no harm to water sources or local wildlife, and so there was no need for the public the be informed. For this time period there was only one oil spill that was reported to the public, and that was involving the collision of an oil truck.
It is fair to say that many of these spills were fairly minor, and did indeed do little or no damage to the environment, but the worrying part is that the authorities had no problem in withholding information from the public.
It has been explained by Lynn Helms, the director of the North Dakota Department of Mineral Resources that they didn’t want the public to become “overwhelmed by little incidents.”
Arguing in favour of the public being informed, however, is wheat farmer Louis Kuster, who said it is “absolutely important for us to know” about any spills that have happened.
It is especially important for farmers given the reliance on the land being healthy that will ensure if his crops are successful or not.One single spilled barrel oil has the potential to ruin acres and acres of farmland if it is spilled in a particularly dangerous place.
“Right now, you don’t know if there is a spill unless you find it yourself,” said Kuster.
The new report has led to better transparency regarding available information on oil spills with the creation of an online database of spills accessible to the public.
But it is the apparent ease in the way these facts were withheld from the public that is worrying to the Sioux Tribe and their distrust of the whole pipeline industry.
The Sioux Tribe says that pipelines “threaten the Tribe’s environmental and economic well-being, and would damage and destroy sites of great historic, religious, and cultural significance to the Tribe.”
The tribe is constantly at war with the pipeline industry, often being arrested for trespassing on ‘private’ property, although they maintain their protests are that of a peaceful nature.