Officials with the Environmental Protection Agency say an oil spill into the Yellowstone River in Montana has been cleaned up with fears of a secondary release eliminated. The spill in Montana earlier this month and one a year ago in Michigan have raised concerns about the safety of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline that would pass through Nebraska.
Sen. Nelson acknowledges the pipeline spill in Montana raises questions TransCanada Corporation needs to answer. TransCanada has proposed constructing a pipeline that would send oil from Alberta, Canada to refineries located at the Gulf Coast in the United States. The pipeline would run through Nebraska.
Nelson says no pipeline can be guaranteed 100% not to rupture.
“Having said that, that means that when you go through a very fragile part of our country, as in the Sand Hills, I think the expectation we all have is that you have to be even more cautious and more concerned about pipeline safety,” Nelson recently told reporters during a conference call.
TransCanada could take a couple of routes through Nebraska. One would go through the Sand Hills in north-central Nebraska, which have porous soils and high water tables. A rupture in that part of the state would likely pour oil into the Ogallala Aquifer. A report issued by a University of Nebraska engineering professor suggests that a major spill could contaminate drinking water over a very wide area, perhaps as far downstream at Kansas City, Missouri. TransCanada disputes the findings, claiming that improved techniques and technology have greatly increased response time to pipeline breaks.
Nelson insists that the location of the pipeline is a state issue. State officials insist that the location will be determined by the State Department. Sen. Johanns has urged the State Department to force TransCanada to consider a route that avoids the Sand Hills.
The Yellowstone spill isn’t the only pipeline rupture that has Nebraska officials a bit worried. A year ago, a 30-inch pipeline owned by Enbridge Oil Partners ruptured near Marshall, Michigan. It spilled more than 800,000 gallons of oil into Talmadge Creek, which flows into the Kalamazoo River, a tributary of Lake Michigan. University of Nebraska engineer professor John Stansbury based at least part of the assumptions used in his study of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline on the Enbridge oil spill. ExxonMobil owned the 12-inch pipeline that ruptured in Montana.
Governor Heineman says problems with pipelines elsewhere have state officials concerned about the Keystone XL pipeline. Heineman says TransCanada must insure that its pipeline is safe.
“They’re legitimate concerns and where they end up, who knows for sure,” Heineman stated in a conference call with reporters recently. “But, again, those are concerns that we all have.”
The EPA states that the pipeline break in Montana now is under the jurisdiction of the Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA).