North Dakota Spill Leads to Questions about Oil Pipeline Regulations

Thursday, 24 Oct 2013 05:19 PM

By Morgan Chilson

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After a spill, questions are being raised about the way North Dakota officials are handling the oil industry booming statewide, tied in part to a North Dakota farmer who discovered a pipeline leaked 20,000-plus barrels of oil in September.

Steven Jensen was combining when he ran over wet ground and realized a pipeline owned by Tesoro Logistics was leaking, but it wasn’t until 10 days later that the leak was announced, the Times said.

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“If there is a spill of any sort, the public should be told immediately, so that they have confidence that their officials are responding appropriately,” said Mac Schneider, a Grand Forks Democrat, according to The Los Angeles Times.

The hole in the pipe didn’t set off leak detection sensors, which Tesoro has said was “unacceptable,” the Times said. But questions are being raised about why it took the company so long to determine how much oil was missing after the leak was discovered.

Tesoro first said 750 barrels spilled, but changed that to 20,600 a week after the spill was discovered, the Times said. The estimate was apparently based on soil samples from the site.

All of these issues are pushing environmentalists and others to question the regulations on the oil industry, especially surrounding the proposed building of the Keystone XL pipeline.

“This section of the pipeline was not required to have leak monitoring or pressure sensors,” a North Dakota state geologist, Kris Roberts, told the New York Times about the Tesoro spill. “And it didn’t.”

“Even though people have been calling for better leak detection, it is usually a land owner who finds the spills,” Carl Weimer, of the Pipeline Safety Trust, told the Times. “It runs counter to what the industry tells us, that they can detect and shut off these spills in a minutes, when they actually go on for days.”

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