Keystone pipeline leak worse than believed

TransCanada now believes the Keystone pipeline has leaked about 16,800 gallons in South Dakota, a dramatic increase from initial estimates.

The leak was discovered on Saturday and forced a key section of the controversial pipeline to be shut down. TransCanada initially told regulators the spill totaled about 187 gallons of oil.

TransCanada told CNNMoney that while the company has “made progress” in trying to find the source of the leak, it has “yet to pinpoint the source.”

Despite that, TransCanada said the spill has been “controlled” because the pipeline was shut down immediately after it was reported and valves and pump stations were shut down remotely. The company said visual inspections confirmed the valves were closed.

One of the biggest concerns in an oil leak is that it could contaminate not just land but local water supplies.

At this point the Keystone pipeline incident doesn’t look nearly as bad as a massive 2013 oil pipeline leak in neighboring North Dakota.

A Tesoro pipeline break there caused more than 20,000 barrels, or about 840,000 gallons, of oil to spill into a wheat field. That spill covered roughly the size of about seven football fields and sparked a cleanup effort spanning years.

TransCanada said it has not “observed significant impacts to the environment” and there are no “significant” bodies of water nearby. The public has not been impacted, the company said.

TransCanada said a crew of about 100 people continue to work “around the clock” with regulators at the site, which is about four miles from its Freeman pump station in Hutchinson County, South Dakota.

The company now tells regulators the spill totals roughly 400 barrels, which is equal to about 16,800 gallons. The new oil spill estimate was based on the safe excavation of soil to expose more than 100 feet of pipe, the company said. The estimate includes the amount of oil observed in the soil and the “potential area impacted.”

TransCanada said it has “taken this incident very seriously” and continues to work with federal and state regulatory agencies.

Still, environmentalists criticized TransCanada over the oil spill.

The “disaster is a stark reminder that it’s not a question if a pipeline will malfunction, but rather a question of when,” Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club, wrote in a statement. “

Environmental concerns led President Obama to deny a permit to expand the Keystone pipeline last year. TransCanada has challenged that denial in U.S. federal court.

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