November 16, 210,000 of oil leaked from the Keystone Pipeline, three miles south of Amherst South Dakota. This pipeline spilled before, last April, but that was a 16,800-gallon spill, and this spill is 13 times what they dealt with last time. Brian Walsh, of the Department of Environmental and Natural Resources, says that some of the oil has surfaced and that it will take them several days before they can see if the groundwater has been contaminated.

Keystone Pipeline oil spill

This leak occurred days before Nebraska officials are supposed to announce their decision on the Keystone XL Pipeline.

The Keystone Pipeline is a highly debated endeavor. The plan is for it to travel from Hardisty, Alta to Steele City, Nebraska, passing under several Native American lands, and the Ogallala Aquifer, which is one of the largest underground freshwater reserves. It will be pumping tar sand oil, whose extraction creates 17% more greenhouse gases than standard oil extraction. Tar sand oil also needs to be mixed with petrochemicals for transport, is harder to clean up, and is 3.6 times as likely to spill when compared to crude oil.

Native American land and oil spills

The leak is described by Dave Flute, chairman of the Sisseton Wahpeton Sioux Tribe, as adjacent to Sioux territory. He has stated concern that the oil might leak into the aquifer but has shown approval of TransCanada's containment of the site.

This was not the first Pipeline to spill near Native American land. Last April the Dakota Access Pipeline leaked 84 gallons of oil into South Dakota before it was even fully operational. The spill was quickly cleaned up with no apparent damage to the environment, and was described by the Department of Environmental and Natural Resources as "relatively small" and "not uncommon".

However, when the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and thousands of supporters were protesting the Dakota Access pipeline going through sacred Native American territory, they had often argued that there would be no spills at all. The protesters underwent freezing temperatures to try to keep the pipeline out of their land, and when they were forced to leave they went on to sue the Dakota Access Pipeline in court, only to lose on October 11, 2017.

If the Keystone XL is allowed to go ahead it will pass through several Native American sacred lands. Tribal members have already begun to oppose it, but if it is allowed to continue by the Nebraska officials, history would suggest that they won't be able to stop it.