Keystone XL resumes service following major spill


Tyler Chalfant | November 12th, 2019

The controversial Keystone XL pipeline resumed services over the weekend less than two weeks after an oil spill near Edinburgh, North Dakota. Approximately 383,000 gallons of oil spilled into a wetland. This is the pipeline’s second large oil spill two years, after another major leak affected South Dakota in 2017.

A further expansion of the TransCanada Energy pipeline was blocked by a federal judge last year after being approved by the Trump administration. The leak doesn’t appear to pose an immediate threat to public health, according to the North Dakota Department of Environmental Quality, but opponents of the expansion claim that these spills provide further evidence that the pipeline is not safe. 

The pipeline, which carries oil from Alberta to refineries in Illinois and Texas, first opened in 2010, meaning the sections in which these spills occurred are still fairly new. The 2017 spill was found to be likely rooted in a crack that had formed during the pipeline’s construction. Causes of this spill are still under investigation.

UI study finds that Midwest is experiencing more serious floods


Coralville, Iowa during the Flood of 1993. (Alan Light/Flickr)
Coralville, Iowa during the Flood of 1993. (Alan Light/Flickr)

Nick Fetty | February 12, 2015

The Midwest has seen a greater number of serious floods in recent decades compared to previous years, according to a report by researchers at the University of Iowa.

“It’s not that big floods are getting bigger, but that we have been experiencing a larger number of big floods,” said Gabriele Villarini, UI assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering and a co-author of the study.

The report – which was published this week in the journal Nature Climate Change – examined 774 stream gauges in 14 Midwestern states (Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, West Virginia, and Wisconsin). The researchers concluded that 34 percent of the sensors detected an increase in flooding events between 1962 and 2011. Nine percent of the gauges showed a decrease in flood events during that same time. The region including Illinois, Iowa, Indiana, Ohio, Missouri, and North Dakota experienced the greatest increase of flood frequency.

The authors wrote: “Most of the flood peaks in the northern part of the [Central United States] tend to occur in the spring and are associated with snow melt, rain falling on frozen ground, and rain-on-snow events.” However, the report “does not attempt to pinpoint precisely how climate change might be directly responsible for these increased flooding events.”

Serious floods have inundated the region in 1993, 2008, 2011, 2013, and 2014 and have caused more than $260 billion in damages between 1980 and 2013.

Funding for this research was provided by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Institute for Water Resources, the Iowa Flood Center, IIHR-Hydroscience & Engineering, and the National Science Foundation.

Proposed oil pipeline would run through 16 Iowa counties


Nick Fetty | July 10, 2014

An oil pipeline in Alaska. Photo by Sebastian Saarloos; flickr
An oil pipeline in Alaska.
Photo by Sebastian Saarloos; flickr

An 1,100-mile underground pipeline would run from Lyon County in the northwest corner of Iowa to Lee County in the southeast if it properly clears hurdles by various regulatory groups.

Energy Transfer Partners L.P. – a Dallas, Texas-based company – has yet to file a petition with the Iowa Utilities Board for regulatory review though hopes to meet with officials to discuss state requirements. The pipeline is expected to carry about 320,000 barrels of crude oil through 17 counties in the state each day.

This proposal comes on the heels of a booming oil production sector in North Dakota, particularly the Bakken region, which creates more than 1 million barrels per day. Hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling technologies are often used to procure the oil. Environmentalists and other groups have been skeptical of these methods which have had adverse consciences in several instances.

Fright trains currently transport oil through nine counties in the northwest and northeast corners of the state. In 2013, a train carrying crude oil derailed and exploded, killing 47 in the Canadian town of Lac-Mégantic. Crude oil drilled in North Dakota’s Bakken region is considered “more flammable than other oil” which prompted the U.S. Department of Transportation to implement stricter regulations with the transportation of the substance.

Energy Transfer Partners’ Board of Directors has already approved plans for the 30-inch diameter pipeline and expects operations to begin by the end of 2016.

Edit: Post originally stated that the pipeline would pass through 17 Iowa counties.