On Thursday morning, the Keystone Pipeline that runs from Canada across the Plains states leaked and spilled 210,000 gallons of oil -- 5,000 barrels -- a few miles southeast of the small town of Amherst, in Marshall County, South Dakota, which lies on the border of North Dakota. The oil spill came just days away from a crucial decision by the Public Service Commission in Nebraska over whether to grant a permit for a new, long-delayed sister pipeline, Keystone XL, which has been controversial for several years. It has yet to be completed.

TransCanada of Calgary, Alberta. The leak on Thursday was one of a series of leaks that critics say shows that TransCanada should be denied another permit.

According to the Washington Post, Jane Kleeb -- an opponent of the pipeline who happens to be the head of Nebraska’s Democratic Party -- said, “TransCanada cannot be trusted,” adding that she trust that the state’s Public Service Commission will not side with a “foreign oil company.”

TransCanada revealed that the leak happened about 35 miles south of the Ludden pump station in southeast North Dakota, adding that it was “completely isolated” within 15 minutes. The leak was detected at about 5:30 a.m., occurring in an agricultural field. A government spokesman said that the spill has not impacted a surface water body.

TransCanada first applied for a permit for its Keystone XL pipeline in 2008, but it has been delayed by environmental concerns. Barack Obama approved the southern half of the project in 2012 but ultimately rejected the northern segment in late 2015. After his election, President Donald Trump issued an executive order to clear obstacles for the Keystone XL, but TransCanada still needed a permit from the independent Nebraska Public Service Commission. Environmentalists are concerned about any potential harm that future oil spills could mean for the Sandhills region and its vast Ogallala aquifer, which prompted TransCanada to move the Nebraska segment further east.

Environmental activists were quick to renew their opposition to Keystone XL. TransCanada announced that it is conducting an investigation of this newest spill



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Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat and the editor of Spero News.

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