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North Dakota Pipeline Spill Estimated at 176,000 Gallons

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North Dakota Pipeline Spill Estimated at 176,000 Gallons

By Nika Knight

A pipeline just two and half hours' drive from the Indigenous water protectors' ongoing stand against the Dakota Access Pipeline has leaked more than 170,000 gallons of crude oil into a tributary of the Little Missouri River and into a hillside, according to reports late Monday.

Monitoring equipment failed to detect the leak and it is unknown how long the spill near Belfield, North Dakota had gone on before a local landowner discovered it on Dec. 5.

At least two cows have been confirmed dead near the site of the spill, reports the Pioneer Press.

The Belle Fourche pipeline is operated by the Wyoming-based True Companies, which is the same company behind the 2015 pipeline rupture in Montana that sent more than 40,000 gallons of crude into the Yellowstone River. Indeed, at that time it was reported that the operator had a "checkered environmental history," with 30 recorded pipeline leaks and multiple federal fines on its record.

Bill Seuss, an environmental scientist with the North Dakota Health Department, told the Associated Press that the investigation into the cause of the most recent spill is ongoing and cleanup efforts may last into the spring.

Energy Transfer Partners, the company behind the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline, has repeatedly insisted that the pipeline is "safe," but water protectors have argued that it is not a question of if it will leak, but when.

"But it will be safe THIS time, right?" wrote Honor the Earth national campaigns director Tara Houska on Facebook, sharing a report of the latest spill.

The U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration notes that there have been more than 11,000 reported "significant incidents"—meaning spills, injuries, deaths and costly accidents—involving pipelines since 1996.

Reposted with permission from our media associate Common Dreams.

A plume of smoke from wildfires burning in the Angeles National Forest is seen from downtown Los Angeles on Aug. 29, 2009 in Los Angeles, California. Kevork Djansezian / Getty Images

California is bracing for rare January wildfires this week amid damaging Santa Ana winds coupled with unusually hot and dry winter weather.

High winds, gusting up to 80- to 90 miles per hour in some parts of the state, are expected to last through Wednesday evening. Nearly the entire state has been in a drought for months, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor, which, alongside summerlike temperatures, has left vegetation dry and flammable.

Utilities Southern California Edison and PG&E, which serves the central and northern portions of the state, warned it may preemptively shut off power to hundreds of thousands of customers to reduce the risk of electrical fires sparked by trees and branches falling on live power lines. The rare January fire conditions come on the heels of the worst wildfire season ever recorded in California, as climate change exacerbates the factors causing fires to be more frequent and severe.

California is also experiencing the most severe surge of COVID-19 cases since the beginning of the pandemic, with hospitals and ICUs over capacity and a stay-at-home order in place. Wildfire smoke can increase the risk of adverse health effects due to COVID, and evacuations forcing people to crowd into shelters could further spread the virus.

As reported by AccuWeather:

In the atmosphere, air flows from high to low pressure. The setup into Wednesday is like having two giant atmospheric fans working as a team with one pulling and the other pushing the air in the same direction.
Normally, mountains to the north and east of Los Angeles would protect the downtown which sits in a basin. However, with the assistance of the offshore storm, there will be areas of gusty winds even in the L.A. Basin. The winds may get strong enough in parts of the basin to break tree limbs and lead to sporadic power outages and sparks that could ignite fires.
"Typically, Santa Ana winds stay out of downtown Los Angeles and the L.A. Basin, but this time, conditions may set up just right to bring 30- to 40-mph wind gusts even in those typically calm condition areas," said AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Mike Doll.

For a deeper dive:

AP, LA Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Washington Post, Weather Channel, AccuWeather, New York Times, Slideshow: New York Times; Climate Signals Background: Wildfires, 2020 Western wildfire season

For more climate change and clean energy news, you can follow Climate Nexus on Twitter and Facebook, sign up for daily Hot News, and visit their news site, Nexus Media News.

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