Analysis: North Dakota Pipelines Average Four Spills Per Year; 3 Million Gallons Spilled in Past 21 Years

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Analysis: North Dakota Pipelines Average Four Spills Per Year; 3 Million Gallons Spilled in Past 21 Years

Dakota Access Pipeline Reroute Should Not Endanger Indigenous Lands, Communities or Climate

WASHINGTON - Existing pipelines in North Dakota have spilled crude oil and other hazardous liquids at least 85 times since 1996, according to an analysis released today by the Center for Biological Diversity. These 85 spills — an average of four a year — caused more than $40 million in property damage, according to the data compiled from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.

The analysis follows Sunday’s decision by the Obama administration not to grant the Dakota Access pipeline an easement for construction under Lake Oahe. After months of peaceful protests led by the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, the Army Corps of Engineers will undertake a review of alternate routes for the pipeline.

“Pipeline leaks are common and incredibly dangerous, and the Dakota Access pipeline will threaten every community it cuts through,” said the Center's Randi Spivak. “This pipeline wasn’t considered safe for the residents of Bismarck. It is equally unsafe for the water supply of the Standing Rock Sioux. The Army Corps should not be putting anyone’s water supply at risk.” 

Energy Transfer Partners, the conglomerate behind the controversial Dakota Access project, has a questionable safety record. The company has been responsible for 29 pipeline safety incidents since 2006, in which 9,555 barrels of hazardous liquids were spilled. 

The standoff over the Dakota Access pipeline has united indigenous people across the globe in an unprecedented show of solidarity; thousands have come to show their support. In response local police have militarized the situation, firing rubber bullets and showering protesters with water in freezing temperatures. 

A 2013 study reveals a deeply troubling history of pipeline accidents in the United States. This independent analysis of federal records found that since 1986, oil and gas pipeline leaks, spills and other safety incidents have resulted in nearly $7 billion in damages, more than 2,000 injuries and more than 500 deaths.

A time-lapse video documents every “significant pipeline” incident in the continental United States — along with their human and financial costs — from 1986 through May 2013. On average one significant pipeline incident occurred in the country every 30 hours, according to the data.

“We expect the Corps to conduct a full oil-spill risk analysis for every river crossing along the entire route of the Dakota Access project," Spivak said. “Spills are a fact of life when pipelines fail — and that puts water, wildlife and people directly in harm’s way.” 

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At the Center for Biological Diversity, we believe that the welfare of human beings is deeply linked to nature - to the existence in our world of a vast diversity of wild animals and plants. Because diversity has intrinsic value, and because its loss impoverishes society, we work to secure a future for all species, great and small, hovering on the brink of extinction. We do so through science, law, and creative media, with a focus on protecting the lands, waters, and climate that species need to survive.

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