Keystone pipeline spill cleanup continues near Kansas-Nebraska border

LINCOLN, Neb. (KLKN) – On Dec. 7, cleanup crews were dispatched to a Kansas creek, near the Nebraska border, in response to a confirmed oil leak from the Keystone pipeline.

The leak — about 20 miles south of Steele City, Nebraska — was estimated to be about 14,000 barrels of crude oil.

By Thursday night, TC Energy, which runs the pipeline, said it had recovered a little more than 3,000 barrels.

It said the affected segment of the pipeline remains safely isolated amid the recovery, repair and investigation.

Since its completion in 2010, the over 2,600-mile pipeline had transported over 3.6 billion barrels of oil.

A report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office shows that there have been 22 previous spills from the pipeline.

It says that amounts to more than 500,000 gallons.

Ken Winston, executive director of Nebraska Interfaith Power and Light, said there are many environmental impacts on wildlife, soil and more.

“There’s also the potential negative impacts on people, from inhaling it, inhaling the fumes in the vicinity of the spill,” he said. “Hopefully they have it contained, but it’s going to take a long time to clean up.”

A proposed extension of the pipeline, Keystone XL, sparked local and national debates but was ultimately blocked by President Joe Biden once he took office.

Nebraska Democratic Party Chair Jane Kleeb said pipelines like these are largely used for exporting fuel out of the U.S.

“It was about getting tar sands, which is a very heavy type of oil, down to a refinery owned by Saudi Arabia so they could ship that energy to China,” she said. “That’s all it (the Keystone XL) was about. That was the pure economics about it; that’s what Canada wanted to do with its natural resource.”

There are over 20,000 miles of hazardous liquid and natural gas pipelines in the state, according to the Nebraska Pipeline Association.

Winston said that when a pipeline closes down, landowners are on the hook.

“We have inadequate protections to help pay for the cost of damages to landowners and things like that,” he said. “So I think we need to establish new standards in that area and provide new protections for landowners so they are not stuck with having to pay for things that were caused by something maybe they did not want in the first place.”

Taylor Gage, a spokesman for Rep. Mike Flood said in a statement about the spill, “The Congressman is pleased that the issue is isolated and that remediation efforts are advancing. The work done over the years to minimize these kinds of events has helped make pipelines the safest way to move petroleum products. Nebraska has over 20,000 miles of pipeline. Keystone XL would help make America more energy secure and help stymy the energy inflation Americans have endured under President Biden.”

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