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TC Energy plans diversion around Keystone pipeline leak; critics seek more transparency


TC Energy plans diversion around Keystone pipeline leak; critics seek more transparency

Jan 03, 2023 | 3:27 pm ET
By Paul Hammel
TC Energy plans diversion around Keystone pipeline leak on Kansas stream
TC Energy workers on Saturday at the site of a pipeline spill near Washington, Kansas, just a few miles south of the Nebraska border (courtesy TC Energy)

LINCOLN — TC Energy, operator of the Keystone pipeline, announced plans Tuesday to build a temporary bypass around a pipeline spill on a Kansas creek to aid in the cleanup and reclamation of Mill Creek.

Meanwhile, two critics of the pipeline questioned why more details have not been provided about the total amount of the spill, the extent of the cleanup, and its cause.

On Dec. 7, the 36-inch pipeline sprang a leak just east of Washington, Kansas, spilling an estimated 14,000 barrels (or 588,000 gallons) of crude oil near and into the creek.

Largest leak on 12-year-old pipeline

It was the largest leak to date on the 12-year-old crude oil pipeline, larger than five previous leaks combined, according to a recent report by the Government Accountability Office. The spill occurred as a diagnostic tool was being run through the pipe in that area.

The Keystone pipeline system — a forerunner to the more controversial and now abandoned Keystone XL pipeline — carries crude oil processed from Canada’s tar sands region to refineries in southeast Illinois and the Texas Gulf Coast.

Operations on the Keystone segment from Steele City, Nebraska, to Cushing, Oklahoma, were resumed last week under plans approved by the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), the company said.

pipeline spill
TC Energy announced plans Tuesday to build a bypass on Mill Creek as it works to clean up a spill on its Keystone pipeline last month. (Courtesy of TC Energy)

TC Energy, formerly TransCanada, said flows in Mill Creek will be diverted upstream of containment dams built to hold back crude oil. The water, pumped through an above-ground bypass, will then rejoin the creek below the dams.

But both Jane Kleeb, founder of Bold Nebraska, and Zach Pistoria, a lobbyist for the Sierra Club of Kansas, said TC Energy hasn’t been completely transparent about several aspects of the repair and reclamation project.

Cause still not known

Pistoria said that nearly a month after the spill, the cause is still not known, nor are the results of testing on the integrity of the pipe in that area.

“There’s a lot more transparency and information that the company could provide,” he said. “(But) I can’t blame them, they don’t want to show the ugly side of their business.”

Kleeb repeated an earlier call for PHMSA to conduct a “detailed inspection” of the entire Keystone pipeline system, not just the pipe in the spill area.,

“It’s clear they used faulty, foreign steel during construction that is putting communities and water at risk,” Kleeb said.

TC Energy donates

On Tuesday, TC Energy said it would donate $7,500 to Washington County, Kansas, emergency responders for additional mobile and radio equipment in appreciation of their help with the spill.

The company said it is also expanding its “Build Strong” community giving program to the Washington County Hospital. The program provides a 100% match for donations to such facilities.