The July Photo of the Month by Dillon Jenkins shows the oil spill in the Yellowstone River near Laurel, Montana. On July 2nd, an ExxonMobil pipeline ruptured spilling roughly 1,000 barrels (42,000 gallons) of crude oil into the Yellowstone, the longest river without a dam in the United States. Some 140 residents were temporarily evacuated. Oil was reported as far downstream as North Dakota, impacting drinking water for communities as well as ranching and farming operations along its banks for months if not years to come.
My mental image of the Yellowstone did not have refineries and pipelines so the spill is a shock. I pictured a wild, clean, cold, swift-flowing stream. On a visit in 1976, I remember thinking that Montana was like Colorado without all the cities and towns. In 1805, Meriwether Lewis noted the beauty and abundant wildlife in the area. On the return trip east in July 1806, Capt. William Clark camped on the Yellowstone and reported that the bison were so numerous and their breathing and snorting so loud that his men had to drive them off with rifle fire before they could sleep.
So things change and communities develop, but every insult to the earth leaves a lasting impact on plant, animal and human life for a very long time. The larger Enbridge Pipeline spill into the Kalamazoo River last year near Marshall, Mich., exposed residents to oil, benzene, toluene and other toxic chemicals. The EPA estimates that the cost of that ongoing cleanup is $29.1 million to date.
These disasters should give pause to consider the potential impacts of the proposed Keystone XL expansion of TransCanada's pipeline network.
The 1,959-mile pipeline would cut through Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas and Oklahoma to refineries in Texas, and crisscross the Ogallala Aquifer, which Americans living in the Midwest rely on for fresh drinking water as well as vital irrigation that makes possible the agricultural production of the Great Plains. There were two spills from the existing Keystone pipe this May.
Who stands to gain from this reckless gamble with our natural resources? Reuters reports that is the billionaire Koch Brothers, already entrenched in the filthy tar sands oil industry, leading funder of climate denial pseudo-science and post Citizens United major sponsor of pro-corporate, anti-enviromental regulation members of Congress. They stand to reap more billions if the Keystone XL Pipeline Is approved. The losers? Any thing that needs clean water and air to live as well as the people that live near the Tar Sands.