Last week, the Keystone Pipeline leaked nearly 16,800 gallons — or 400 barrels’ worth — of oil into a South Dakota field. TransCanada Corporation’s first estimate for the incident’s severity was only 187 gallons spilled, which obviously differed enormously from the real amount.
TransCanada has yet to determine the cause of the leak. Regardless, the pipeline opened for business again on Saturday, only one week after someone first reported the spill.
While specialists have determined that this particular oil spill will have no lasting environmental impacts and that it does not threaten public safety, I’m not reassured.
However minimal, large-scale operations like the Keystone Pipeline always involve environmental threats.
The main concern surrounding any oil spill is that oil will contaminate an affected area’s local groundwater or surrounding land. About 16,800 gallons leaked underground after the Keystone spill, and I’m of the mind that that’s too much oil for experts to say there’s absolutely “no risk” to the environment.
The Keystone Pipeline runs from Canada through several American states. Such a long route means there’s a lot of room for human or mechanical error to cause another spill in the future — and that means even more land and groundwater could someday be at risk of contamination.
As sad as this makes me, it might be too late to close the Keystone Pipeline for good, especially because it reopened so quickly after this spill. But there are other large-scale operations whose impact on the environment we can still fight.
For example, Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton just rejected a Twin Metals request to create a copper and nickel mine in Ely, Minn. This is the second time he has told the company “No.”
The copper mine would run nearly 10 miles from the Kawashiwi River, and it could threaten the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.
Twin Metals still isn’t backing down, but Dayton has reiterated his intent to deny whatever land access it asks for.
State Rep. Tom Hackbarth, R-Cedar, criticized what he sees as the government’s intent to side with “extreme environmentalists” and place the ecosystem over job creation in northern Minnesota.
Hackbarth’s criticism is invalid. Minnesota’s unemployment rate is already far lower than the national average, and the state has been spurring job creation through jobs in health and education.
With that in mind, we can say the environmental safety of the Boundary Waters far outweighs any jobs Minnesota might lose if it doesn’t create a copper mine.
Hackbarth can talk all he wants about Dayton’s motivation to side with “extreme environmentalists.” However, in reality, these same “extremists” are the ones fighting the hardest to save our planet — and that’s the kind of activism more people should embody.
We need to stand up to major corporations and support Dayton’s decision not to open yet another copper mine in Minnesota.