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Two Pipelines Shut Down After 43 Barrels of Crude Leak into Missouri Soil

Energy
Part of the Keystone pipeline in Nebraska. shannonpatrick17 / CC BY 2.0

Parts of two pipelines owned by controversial Canadian pipeline companies remained shut down Thursday following the discovery of a leak near St. Louis, Missouri on Wednesday, CBC News reported.

Both TransCanada's Keystone pipeline and Enbridge's Platte pipeline run parallel to each other through the area. The Keystone pipeline, which carries 590,000 barrels of crude oil a day from Alberta, has faced opposition from environmental activists in the area because it transports from Alberta's tar sands.


"[Leaks] are one more reason on top of climate change to show that tar sands are dangerous and should not be running through our state," Missouri Sierra Club Director John Hickey told St. Louis Public Radio. Residents are also worried the poor quality of the pipeline's steel makes leaks more likely, Hickey said.

The leak was discovered by a TransCanada technician 7:14 a.m. Wednesday. The technician found crude oil covering some 4,000 square feet around the pipeline in St. Charles County, Missouri. TransCanada said it was not sure how much oil had leaked, but thought it was around 43 barrels. The company said it was not yet possible to tell if the leak came from the Keystone or neighboring Enbridge pipeline.

"Until you can excavate and see the top of the pipes, you can't really determine which pipeline the release occurred from," TransCanada Public Information Officer Matthew John told St. Louis Public Radio.

Part of the Enbridge Platte pipeline, which carries 164,000 barrels of crude oil a day from Casper to Guernsey, Wyoming and 145,000 barrels a day from Guernsey to Wood River, Illinois, is also shut down.

"The release was reported in a location near several oil pipelines operated by several different companies, including one that is operated by Express Holdings (USA), LLC, an Enbridge affiliate," Enbridge said in a statement emailed to CBC News. "As such, personnel are onsite and working with those companies to identify the source of the oil and begin cleanup efforts. The oil is contained on the site."

Missouri Department of Natural Resources Environmental Emergency Response also responded to the spill, and section head Brad Harris told St. Louis Public Radio that the spill did not threaten any waterways or endangered species.

"We were very fortunate in the fact that there's a natural containment the oil resides," Harris said.

The pipeline closures caused the price of Canadian crude oil to fall Thursday, Bloomberg News reported. There is increased demand for Canadian oil at U.S. refineries in the Gulf due to sanctions on Venezuela. However, Alberta also had to lower oil production in January because of pipeline congestion, CBC News reported.

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Farms with just one or a handful of different crops encourage fewer species of pollinating and pest-controlling insects to linger, ultimately winnowing away crop yields, according to a new study.

Up to half of the detrimental impacts of the "landscape simplification" that monocropping entails come as a result of a diminished mix of ecosystem service-providing insects, a team of scientists reported Oct. 16 in the journal Science Advances.

Monocrop palm oil plantation Honduras.

SHARE Foundation / Flickr / CC BY-NC 2.0​

"Our study shows that biodiversity is essential to ensure the provision of ecosystem services and to maintain a high and stable agricultural production," Matteo Dainese, the study's lead author and a biologist at Eurac Research in Bolzano, Italy, said in a statement.

It stands to reason that, with declines in the sheer numbers of insects that ferry pollen from plant to plant and keep crop-eating pests under control, these services will wane as well. But until now, it hasn't been clear how monocultures affect the number and mix of these species or how crop yields might change as a result.

Aiming to solve these questions, Dainese and his colleagues pulled together data from 89 studies cutting across a variety of landscapes, from the tropics of Asia and Africa to the higher latitudes of northern Europe. They tabulated the number of pollinating and pest-controlling insects at these sites — both the absolute number of individuals and the number of species — along with an assessment of the ecosystem services the insects provided.

In almost all of the studies they looked at, the team found that a more diverse pool of these species translated into more pollination and greater pest control. They also showed that simplified landscapes supported fewer species of service-providing insects, which ultimately led to lower crop yields.

The researchers also looked at a third measure of the makeup of insect populations — what they called "evenness." In natural ecosystems, a handful of dominant species with many more individuals typically live alongside a higher number of rarer species. The team found as landscapes became less diverse, dominant species numbers dwindled and rare species gained ground. This resulting, more equitable mix led to less pollination (though it didn't end up affecting pest control).

"Our study provides strong empirical support for the potential benefits of new pathways to sustainable agriculture that aim to reconcile the protection of biodiversity and the production of food for increasing human populations," Ingolf Steffan-Dewenter, one of the study's authors and an animal ecologist at the University of Würzburg in Germany, said in the statement.

The scientists figure that the richness of pollinator species explains around a third of the harmful impacts of less diverse landscapes, while the richness of pest-controlling species accounts for about half of the same measure. In their view, the results of their research point to the need to protect biodiversity on and around crops in an uncertain future.

"Under future conditions with ongoing global change and more frequent extreme climate events, the value of farmland biodiversity ensuring resilience against environmental disturbances will become even more important," Steffan-Dewenter said.

Reposted with permission from our media associate Mongabay.

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