North Dakota’s fracking frenzy is leaking like a sieve. And you haven’t heard about it because fracking companies, oil pipeline owners, and state officials have been keeping information about hundreds of oil spills secret for years.
Records obtained by the AP show that so far this year, North Dakota has recorded 139 pipeline leaks that spilled a total of 735 barrels of oil. In 2012, there were 153 pipeline leaks that spilled 495 barrels of oil, data show. A little more than half of the spills companies reported to North Dakota occurred “on-site,” where a well is connected to a pipeline, and most were fewer than 10 barrels. The remainder of the spills occurred along the state’s labyrinth of pipelines.
“The public really should know about these,” [said Don Morrison, director of the Dakota Resource Council, an environmental-minded landowner group with more than 700 members in North Dakota]. “If there is a spill, sometimes a landowner may not even know about it. And if they do, people think it’s an isolated incident that’s only happening to them.”
North Dakota also had 291 “incidents” this year that leaked a total of about 2,209 barrels of oil. Data show that all but 490 barrels were contained and cleaned up at the well site. In 2012, there were 168 spills reported that leaked 1,089 barrels of oil; all but 376 barrels were contained on site, data show. Only one incident — a crash involving an oil truck last year — was reported publicly.
Department of Mineral Resources director Lynn Helms — the state’s top oil regulator — said regulators worry about “over-reporting” spills. The goal, he said, is to find a balance to so that “the public is aware of what’s happening but not overwhelmed by little incidents.”
Stung by criticism, the state announced Friday that it’s preparing to launch a new website that will be used to post details of oil spills and cleanup efforts. And on Oct. 17, state officials took the unusual step of notifying the public about a seven-barrel oil spill.
So far, there are no reports of North Dakotans feeling overwhelmed.