A state ravaged by oil: 745 oil spills reported in North Dakota in just one year

On average a spill occurred every 11 hours and 45 minutes

Published May 7, 2017 5:09PM (EDT)

North Dakota, a state that was the forefront of national protests for months over environmental concerns stemming from the construction of a major pipeline, reported 745 oil spills since last May, according to the state's Department of Health.

The oil and gas industry reported the spills, and the damages varied in each case. While some spills were in the 20-gallon range there were others that were much larger. KCET calculated that, on average, a spill occurred every 11 hours and 45 minutes. One spill coming from a pipeline in early December, went undetected until it was discovered by a local landowner. Originally estimates suggested around 176,000 gallons of crude oil leaked into the Ash Coulee creek, only hours away from Standing Rock, the central location for the Dakota Access Pipeline protests. However recent reports show that the spill was severely underestimated and that the total amount of oil spilled was actually three times greater — 529,830 gallons — making one of the largest oil spills in North Dakota history.

The state faced months of opposition from Native Americans and "water protectors" throughout the country who have raised major concerns over the Dakota Access Pipeline's location, and impact on the environment it would have in the event of a spill. It only takes a brief look at the history of pipeline spills in North Dakota to realize that it's likely to happen in the future.

The conditions at the protests were brutal and included demonstrators being shot by the police with rubber bullets, tear gas and sprayed with a water cannon in below-freezing temperatures. Some were even thrown in dog kennels. The state is now seeking $38 million from the federal government for the reimbursement of law enforcement costs, though it's not currently clear how much they stand to receive.

Energy Transfer Partners, a parent company of the pipeline developer Dakota Access, recently merged with Sunoco Logistics. Sunoco sits atop the charts for crude oil spills in the U.S. President Trump, who may still own shares in ETP, gave the go-ahead in an executive order in January to continue construction of the final section of the pipeline which included drilling under Lake Oahe.

By Charlie May

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Dakota Access Pipeline North Dakota Oil Spills Pipeline Standing Rock