State, tribe to develop Dakota Access pipeline spill plan

December 16, 2019 - 4:16 pm

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — North Dakota will work with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe to help develop a response plan for a potential spill of the Dakota Access pipeline, a state official said Monday.

State Emergency Services Director Cody Schulz said tribal leaders recently requested a response plan and resources to prepare for a spill near the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in the south-central part of the state.

Schulz told a committee of state and tribal leaders headed by Gov. Doug Burgum that his agency would be happy to either “participate or facilitate” a training exercise. The state also would work with the tribe to obtain federal grant money for planning and equipment.

Standing Rock Chairman Mike Faith, who sits on the panel, said oil spill response training would be “awesome” and that he appreciates the state’s effort to work collaboratively with the tribe.

The cooperation comes as Texas-based Energy Transfer wants to double the capacity of the line to as much as 1.1 million barrels daily to meet growing demand for oil shipments from North Dakota.

The $3.8 billion pipeline was subject to prolonged protests and hundreds of arrests during its construction in North Dakota in late 2016 and early 2017 because it crosses beneath the Missouri River, just north of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation. The tribe draws its water from the river and fears pollution. Energy Transfer insists the pipeline and its expansion are safe.

The pipeline has been moving North Dakota oil through South Dakota and Iowa to Illinois for about three years.

Schulz said in an interview that the state has limited resources and personnel to deal with a major spill of the pipeline at present. The state is pursuing more resources and currently works with private contractors and industry for spill cleanup.

Schulz, who also serves on the Morton County Commission, said the prolonged protests cost the county about $38 million for law enforcement, infrastructure repair, cleanup and legal costs. The state reimbursed the county for most of the cost.

Schulz said his agency participated with railroad officials and others during a exercise to coordinate a plan if a train derailed and spilled oil in the Missouri River near Bismarck.

Burgum told the panel Monday that any response plan should include an actual simulation of a spill response, including deploying equipment such as booms to contain a spill on the river.

The Republican governor said pipelines are designed not to leak but that the state should “prepare for the worse” if they do.

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