The Keystone pipeline, part of a 2,687-mile system that carries crude oil from Canada across the Great Plains of the United States, leaked 210,000 gallons of oil yesterday (November 16) into a field in South Dakota.

Aside from the environmental fallout, the spill presents TransCanada, the company that owns the pipeline, with another problem. On Monday, the Public Service Commission in Nebraska will decide if it will grant a permit to Keystone XL—a proposed 1,000-mile pipeline that it also owns—so that it can become part of the Keystone system, according to The New York Times. Environmentalists say yesterday’s leak, which is not the first for the Keystone pipeline system, is an additional reason why TransCanada should not receive the permit.

The leak was detected at 5:30 a.m. on Thursday morning. Brian Walsh, an environmental scientist manager at the South Dakota Department of Environment and Natural Resources, told The Washington Post, “Based on what we know now, the spill has not impacted a surface water body. It has not done that. So that’s good news.”

TransCanada, which tweeted an image of the leak on its Twitter account, said it was “completely isolated” within 15 minutes and that the company had obtained permission from the owner of the field to assess and implement cleanup efforts.


The Times reports that the spill occurred near the Lake Traverse Reservation, home of the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate tribe. “We are monitoring the situation as this leak is adjacent to our reservation,” Tribal Chairman Dave Flute said in a statement. “We do not know the impact this has on our environment at this time, but we are aware of the leak.”

Indigenous groups and environmentalists have opposed the proposed Keystone XL pipeline for many years, arguing that it could negatively impact streams and drinking water and advance climate change.

In 2015, former President Barack Obama denied TransCanada permission to build the northern segment of the pipeline. That decision was overturned by a January 24 executive order signed by the newly inaugurated President Donald Trump. The Indigenous Environmental Network and the North Coast Rivers Alliance filed a lawsuit because, as Colorlines previously reported, “the federal approval of the presidential permit violates four principal environmental laws: the National Environmental Policy Act, the Endangered Species Act, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and Eagle Act.”

Monday’s ruling on the permit is the last required step for TransCanada to begin construction on Keystone XL. Environmentalists believe that if the company is allowed to build, it will likely lead to more environmental accidents like yesterday’s leak.  

“We’ve always said it’s not a question of whether a pipeline will spill, but when, and today TransCanada is making our case for us,” Kelly Martin of the Sierra Club said in a statement. “This is not the first time TransCanada’s pipeline has spilled toxic tar sands, and it won’t be the last.”