210,000 gallons of Keystone oil just leaked in South Dakota

"Hate to say I told you so" has been the reaction from opponents to the controversial pipeline.

There was bad news from South Dakota on Thursday, with TransCanada announced its Keystone pipeline has suffered an oil spill.

So what happened? 

TransCanada, which operates the Keystone pipeline, confirmed that 5,000 barrels-worth of oil leaked underground from pipes three miles southeast of the town of Amherst in northeastern South Dakota.

For context, that's about 80 miles west of the Minnesota-South Dakota border.

By the way, 5,000 barrels of oil is the equivalent of 210,000 gallons.

It's the biggest oil spill in South Dakota to date, CNN reports.

What's the impact?

Right now it's not clear.

TransCanada says the section of pipe was isolated within 15 minutes and emergency, engineering and environmental officials are now assessing the situation.

"The good news today is our system did work," said TransCanada spokeswoman Robynn Tysver to the Lincoln Journal Star. "Our state-of-the-art technology caught the leak."

The leak was underground, but pictures from the scene show some has leaked to the surface.

A spokesman for the South Dakota DNR said it'll be a few days before investigators can see if there's been any contamination of groundwater supplies.

That said, there have been no initial reports of the oil spill affecting waterways, water systems or wildlife.

Is this the Keystone XL pipeline everyone protested about?

Not quite, this is phase 1 of the Keystone pipeline that goes from Canadian tar fields all the way down to South Texas.

Phase 1 stretches from Hardisty, Alberta to the Nebraska-Kansas border. It was completed and activated in 2010.

Keystone XL is the 4th phase of the Keystone pipeline. It would cut a different route through South Dakota and Nebraska from Canada, eventually joining up with phase 2 and 3a of the pipeline, which stretches from southern Nebraska to the Gulf Coast in Texas.

The Keystone XL project has stalled for years amid opposition from environmental groups concerned about pipeline safety.

They're also opposed to the transmission through the U.S. of more Canadian crude oil taken from tar sands, which emits 17 percent more greenhouse gases than standard crude oil extraction.

So people aren't happy about this?

No. The Dakotas have been the center of some huge anti-pipeline protests in recent years, with opponents blockading the Keystone XL line in South Dakota and the Dakota Access Pipeline in North Dakota.

Heading these protests have been tribal leaders, who fear oil spills could leak into aquifiers on reservation land, tainting their water supplies.

The two pipelines were the subject of prolonged protests, but while both projects stalled under the Obama Administration, they were pushed through with the help of President Trump earlier this year, with Trump issuing a federal permit for Keystone XL in March, the Argus Leader reports.

"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, a campaign director for the Sierra Club, told Inside Climate News.

"This is not the first time TransCanada's pipeline has spilled toxic tar sands, and it won't be the last."

Why is it bad timing for TransCanada?

While permits have been issued at the federal level, states still have to agree to the Keystone XL expansion.

The spill came a day before Nebraska's state regulators are expected to announce whether they'll allow the new pipeline to traverse their state.

Jane Kleeb, head of the Nebraska Democratic Party and a longtime activist opposed to Keystone XL, told the Washington Post. “I have full confidence that the Nebraska Public Service Commission is going to side with Nebraskans, not a foreign oil company.”

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