In the wake of the pipeline spill discovered Saturday along the Keystone pipeline in South Dakota, a TransCanada Corporation spokesperson ended up acknowledging the rancher who discovered the leak as an essential—if unhappy—part of his company’s leak detection system.
“We don’t know what has happened here, and we don’t know where it is coming from,” Shawn Howard admitted in a video posted by a third party on Facebook. But “we appreciate [the landowner was] alert and reported this to us quickly.” Indian Country Today adds that the pipeline company “considered that a success story because it demonstrated that TransCanada’s public awareness programs are working.”
But “the rancher was not happy with this assessment,” Indian Country reports, citing Faith Spotted Eagle, the Yankton Dakota Sioux tribal Elder who posted the video. “He said he does not have time to be looking for leaks, that this should not be his job.” But “the TransCanada representative assured the public the company has in place ‘layers to our leak detection system,’ and that alert landowners are only part of the equation, the other being ‘our high-tech oil control centre.’”
Spotted Eagle retorted that “their hotshot computer system did not detect the spill,” and several days after seeping oil was discovered around 4 PM Saturday, “they are still investigating” and “haven’t isolated the leak.”
Chris Nelson, chair of the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission, acknowledged as well that the spill was detected by a passerby. “If confirmed, this would mean the company’s leak detection system failed to identify the incident,” the National Observer notes. “News of the oil seeping to the surface could be inconvenient for TransCanada, which is now trying to convince communities across Canada to accept its proposal for a gigantic new pipeline infrastructure project—the 4,600-kilometre Energy East pipeline.”
“We are quite eager to see how they will try to demonstrate that new pipelines are safe and that we must, as a result, accept, their proposed tar sands export pipeline,” Greenpeace Quebec campaigner Patrick Bonin wrote on his Facebook page.
While TransCanada hadn’t yet located the source or confirmed the size of the spill, the company reported Monday that “no significant impact to the environment has been observed and our investigation continues.” The PUC’s Nelson told reporters that “we’ve been given an early estimate, but until they actually dig down to the pipeline, I don’t think they’re going to have a firm number on the exact number of gallons that were involved.”
The existing Keystone pipeline—not the proposed Keystone XL turned down late last year by President Barack Obama—carries 500,000 barrels per day of Alberta crude to refineries in Port Arthur, Texas.