It was reported last month that North Dakota, the second-largest oil producing state behind Texas, had nearly 300 oil pipeline spills in less than two years. But based on reports, none of them were reported to the public. According to records obtained by Associated Press, the pipeline spills, many of them small, are among some 750 “oil field incidents” that have occurred since January 2012 without public notification. Don Morrison, director of the Dakota Resource Council, an environmental-minded landowner group with more than 700 members in North Dakota, says he had no knowledge of these happenings.
North Dakota officials have urged pipeline industry officials to quickly – and safely – expand the network to keep pace with record production in the oil patch. The state has about 17,500 miles. For weeks, no one knew about a Tesoro Corp. pipeline that broke on Sept. 29 in a remote area near Tioga. According to officials, no water was contaminated or wildlife hurt. But the spill was one of the largest in North Dakota’s history, estimated at 20,600 barrels. It was said that “oil oozed over an area the size of seven football fields.” Associated Press reported:
Records obtained by the AP show that so far this year, North Dakota has recorded 139 pipeline leaks that spilled a total of 735 barrels of oil. In 2012, there were 153 pipeline leaks that spilled 495 barrels of oil, data show. A little more than half of the spills companies reported to North Dakota occurred “on-site,” where a well is connected to a pipeline, and most were fewer than 10 barrels. The remainder of the spills occurred along the state’s labyrinth of pipelines. North Dakota also had 291 “incidents” this year that leaked a total of about 2,209 barrels of oil. Data show that all but 490 barrels were contained and cleaned up at the well site. In 2012, there were 168 spills reported that leaked 1,089 barrels of oil; all but 376 barrels were contained on site, data show. Only one incident – a crash involving an oil truck last year – was reported publicly.
Interestingly, Department of Mineral Resources director Lynn Helms – the state’s top oil regulator – told Associated Press that regulators worry about “over-reporting” spills. The goal, he said, is to find a balance to so that “the public is aware of what’s happening but not overwhelmed by little incidents.” I believe that states have an obligation to report all oil spills to the public. Hopefully, that will soon be the rule, rather than the exception. But considering that the oil companies are very powerful politically, it may not happen.
Sources: Associated Press and Claims Journal
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