Pipelines in North Dakota have spilled crude oil and other hazardous liquids at least 85 times since 1996, according to an analysis released today by the Center for Biological Diversity. These 85 spills — an average of four a year — caused more than $40 million in property damage, according to the data compiled from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.
The analysis follows the recent decision by the Obama administration not to grant the Dakota Access pipeline an easement for construction under Lake Oahe.
After months of peaceful protests led by the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will undertake a review of alternate routes for the pipeline.
“Pipeline leaks are common and incredibly dangerous, and the Dakota Access pipeline will threaten every community it cuts through,” said the center’s Randi Spivak. “This pipeline wasn’t considered safe for the residents of Bismarck. It is equally unsafe for the water supply of the Standing Rock Sioux. The Army Corps should not be putting anyone’s water supply at risk.”
Energy Transfer Partners, the conglomerate behind the controversial Dakota Access project, has a questionable safety record. The company has been responsible for 29 pipeline safety incidents since 2006, in which 9,555 barrels of hazardous liquids were spilled.
The standoff over the Dakota Access pipeline has united indigenous people across the globe in an unprecedented show of solidarity. Thousands have come to show their support. In response local police have militarized the situation, firing rubber bullets and showering protesters with water in freezing temperatures.
A 2013 study reveals a deeply troubling history of pipeline accidents in the United States. This independent analysis of federal records found that since 1986, oil and gas pipeline leaks, spills and other safety incidents have resulted in nearly $7 billion in damages, more than 2,000 injuries and more than 500 deaths.
A time-lapse video documents significant pipeline” incidents in the continental United States — along with their human and financial costs — from 1986 through May 2013.
On average one significant pipeline incident occurred in the country every 30 hours, according to the data.
“We expect the Corps to conduct a full oil-spill risk analysis for every river crossing along the entire route of the Dakota Access project,” Spivak said in a statement to the press. “Spills are a fact of life when pipelines fail — and that puts water, wildlife and people directly in harm’s way.”
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on Sunday turned down the request for an easement for the Dakota Access Pipeline to build under the Missouri River, after months of protests from Native American and climate activists.
The following is a timeline of the project:
Energy Transfer Partners LP applies to build a 1,172 mile (1,885 km), 570,000 barrel-per-day pipeline to deliver crude oil from North Dakota’s Bakken shale fields to Patoka, Illinois, crossing South Dakota and Iowa to the North Dakota Public Service Commission, kicking off a year of public hearings in the state.
North Dakota regulators approve the pipeline unanimously
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers holds a hearing for Native Americans on the pipeline. At that time, there was heated opposition to the project from Native tribes.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers approved three easements for water crossings for the pipeline at Sakakawea, the Mississippi River and Lake Oahe. Lake Oahe is an ancestral site for the Standing Rock Sioux tribe.
The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe sues the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in the U.S. District Court of the District of Columbia in connection with the pipeline, citing violation of multiple federal statutes that authorize the pipeline’s construction and operation, and seeks an emergency order to halt construction. The tribe also alleges the pipeline threatens their environmental and economic well-being and would damage and destroy sites of historic, religious and cultural significance. The Sioux Tribe say that because the pipeline goes underneath Lake Oahe, approximately half a mile upstream of the tribe’s reservation, leaks from the pipeline would be directly in the tribe’s ancestral lands.
Celebrities including Susan Sarandon, Riley Keough and Shailene Woodley joined members of the Tribe outside a courthouse in Washington, D.C., to protest the pipeline saying that it could pollute water and desecrate sacred land.
Private security guards hired by Energy Transfer Partners used attack dogs and mace after violence erupted at a private construction site along the pipeline route. Six people were bitten by dogs, a scene that was captured on video and broadcast widely.
Brian Cladoosby, president of the National Congress of American Indians, which represents more than 500 tribes, spoke to nearly a dozen of President Barack Obama’s Cabinet-level advisers at a Sept. 6 meeting of the White House’s three-year-old Native American Affairs Council. Cladoosby delivered an impassioned request to his audience: stand with Native Americans who have united with the Standing Rock Sioux tribe and block construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline.
U.S. District Judge James Boasberg in Washington rejected a broad request from Native Americans to block the project. He, however, rules that no construction activity on the Dakota Access may take place between Highway 1806 and 20 miles to the east of Lake Oahe. Construction activity to the west of Highway 1806 may proceed. The tribe appeals the decision.
Less than an hour after Boasberg’s decision, the U.S. Justice and Interior Departments and Army made an unprecedented move and ordered a stop to construction near Lake Oahe until the Army Corps of Engineers reviews its previous decisions and decides if it needs to conduct a fuller environmental and cultural review.
Energy Transfer Partners told employees in a letter, provided to media, that the company was committed to completing the project. The midstream operator cited that the pipeline was 60 percent complete, and that it had already spent $1.6 billion so far on equipment, materials and the workforce.
The U.S. Court of Appeals of the District of Columbia Circuit said that an administrative injunction related to the emergency motion of the Standing Rock Tribe would be dissolved, citing that Dakota Access has rights to construct on private land up to Lake Oahe.
Environmental activists across four states disrupted the flow of millions of barrels of crude from Canada into the United States in a rare, coordinate action that targeted several key pipelines simultaneously. The protest group, the Climate Direct Action, said their move was in support of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. As a safety precaution, companies operating the pipelines shut off sections of the lines for several hours while they investigated.
Earlier in the day, Energy Transfer Partners said it looked forward to prompt resumption of construction activities east and west of Lake Oahe on private land.
Government-to-government tribal consultations began across six regions on how federal government decision-making on infrastructure projects could better include tribal concerns.
Energy Transfer Partners says it has built the pipe to the edge of Lake Oahe and reiterates its intentions to complete the project.
Following the victory of Donald Trump in the presidential election, climate activists and the Standing Rock Sioux say they still hope President Obama will be able to kill the pipeline definitively. Analysts say the line is more than likely to go through.
The U.S. government, in a joint notice issued by the Department of the Interior and the Army Corps of Engineers, delayed a final decision on permitting. They said the permit had followed all legal requirements, but said more consultation with Native American tribes was needed.
Energy Transfer Partners’ CEO Kelcy Warren told the Associated Press that the pipeline would not be re-routed. The statement came as protests grew more heated.
About 400 activists gather on a bridge between the camp protest and the construction path and law enforcement officers respond by using tear gas and water cannons on them in freezing temperatures.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers tells protesters they need to leave the Oceti Sakowin Camp, the primary protest camp located on federal land, by Dec. 5. They later say they have no plans to enforce this order.
North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple issues an evacuation order for the Oceti Sakowin camp, citing harsh weather on the way. Officials the next day tell Reuters they plan on blockading the camp so supplies cannot get in. They later back off that plan to say they may just issue fines but retreat from that idea as well.
A group of U.S. veterans announce they will bring more than 2,000 service members to North Dakota to stand as human shields between the protesters and law enforcement. They begin arriving over the next several days.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers denies Energy Transfer Partners’ request for an easement to run under Lake Oahe, sparking a celebration amongst protesters. ETP says it will continue to fight for the line. The incoming Trump administration has said it supports Dakota Access, along with other pipeline projects.
The Army Corp of Engineers announced this afternoon that it will not grant an easement for the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline to cross the Missouri River next to the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, according to the National Congress of American Indians.
Instead, the Army Corp of Engineers will study the environmental impact of rerouting the 1,172-mile pipeline, which is 87 percent complete. The current route would have run within a half-mile of the Standing Rock Sioux reservation. Tribal leaders and environmentalists are concerned that a rupture in the line would contaminate the reservation’s water.
Such pipeline breaches are rare but have caused massive damage.
Once complete, the Dakota Access Pipeline will carry 470,000 barrels of light crude oil per day from northwestern North Dakota to south-central Illinois.
In September, Dallas-based Energy Transfer Partners, which owns the pipeline, won a federal lawsuit granting it the right to complete the pipeline on its opposed path. But protesters who had begun blocking construction in August refused to disperse. They’ve built an encampment at the site that has attracted supportive people from all over the world, including celebrities and other high-profile personalities.
Las month, Standing Rock Sioux Tribe chairman Dave Archambault II asked the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to reassess its original conclusion that the Dakota Access Pipeline crossing would not affect tribal members. An independent consultant hired by the tribe had found that the federal government’s environmental assessment of the pipeline’s impact was unsound.
In fact, Richard Kuprewicz of Accufacts, Inc., a consulting firm that advises government agencies and industry about pipelines, said an oil spill at Standing Rock would also impact an estimated 17 million people downstream from the river.
As reported today by The Associated Press, U.S. Secretary for the Interior Sally Jewell said in a statement that the Corps’ “thoughtful approach … ensures that there will be an in-depth evaluation of alternative routes for the pipeline and a closer look at potential impacts.”
Jewell also said that the decision today “underscores that tribal rights reserved in treaties and federal law, as well as Nation-to-Nation consultation with tribal leaders, are essential components of the analysis to be undertaken in the environmental impact statement going forward.”
Energy Transfer Partners has said in the past that it would not reroute the pipeline. Speculation is that the company will wait until President-elect Donald Trump takes office and then go forward with its original plans. During his campaign, Trump promised to get rid of government “red tape” and federal regulations that stall energy projects due to their environmental impact.
Federal financial disclosures filed in May showed that Trump owns interest in the pipeline and that Energy Transfer Partners CEO Kelcy Warren donated $3,000 to Trump’s campaign, plus $100,000 to a committee supporting Trump’s candidacy. Warren also donated $66,800 to the Republican National Committee.
Although the fate of the Dakota Access Pipeline’s route still hangs in the balance, Archambault said in a statement today that “with this decision we look forward to being able to return home and spend the winter with our families and loved ones, many of whom have sacrificed as well.”
The epic, months-long standoff between law enforcement and pipeline protesters has escalated recently at the main protest site, Oceti Sakowin Camp. Hundreds of veterans traveled to the encampment last week to protect the protesters, who have been ordered to disperse on Monday.
Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch announced Friday in a videotaped statement that she was dispatching federal mediators to ensure the ongoing standoff did not erupt into violence.
But the Army’s announcement today appears to have eased tensions, at least for the time being.
“We wholeheartedly support the decision of the administration and commend with the utmost gratitude the courage it took on the part of President Obama, the Army Corps, the Department of Justice and the Department of the Interior to take steps to correct the course of history and to do the right thing,” Archambault said.