A portion of the controversial Keystone Pipeline was temporarily shut down after crews discovered a massive leak in South Dakota’s Marshall County early Thursday morning.
In a statement, pipeline owner TransCanada claimed “a drop in pressure was detected in [the pipeline’s] operating system resulting from an oil leak that is under investigation.” According to the company, Keystone had leaked “approximately 5,000 barrels” or around 210,000 gallons of oil. According to KSFY, the spill occurred in a largely agricultural area, with no reports of oil found in the area’s waterways as of yet.
Upon learning of the leak, “emergency response procedures were activated” by maintenance crews, the company stated.
While TransCanada was still pitching the pipeline, the company responded to activists’ concerns about the potential for leaks by promising it would “set the gold standard for a safe and reliable 21st century pipeline.”
The spill comes just four days before Nebraska regulators are set to make a decision on the pipeline’s proposed route through that state—one that’s for years faced fierce opposition by environmental groups and property rights activists who worry about the effects of Keystone’s construction and the now not-so-theoretical potential for spills.
“We want to make sure our fellow Nebraskans know the decision is coming... and how critical this decision is for property rights and clean water,” Volunteers for Bold Alliance Director Jane Kleeb, who has been helping fight the pipeline in the years since it was first proposed, told Reuters on Wednesday.
The pipeline, which will connect Canadian oil reserves with refineries in the United States, has long been a contentious project. In 2015, then-President Obama ordered construction on the pipeline to stop, saying “the Keystone XL Pipeline would not serve the national interest of the United States.” In March 2017, however, President Trump approved the permits necessary to re-start construction on the pipeline, exclaiming at the time that “When completed, the Keystone XL pipeline will span 900 miles. Wow!”
Thursday’s spill also isn’t the first time the pipeline has breached. Since going into operation in 2010, the Keystone pipeline has in some way spilled more than a dozen times.