Listen: 'Parade of trucks' surround area of Keystone Pipeline leak near Nebraska-Kansas border

Dec. 9, 2022, 1:52 p.m. ·

Gravel trucks heading to and from Keystone pipeline spill (Photo by Fred Knapp, Nebraska Public Media News)
Gravel trucks heading to and from Keystone pipeline spill (Photo by Fred Knapp, Nebraska Public Media News)

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ELIZABETH REMBERT: On Wednesday night, a leak was detected in the Keystone Pipeline near Washington, Kansas about 20 miles south of Steel City, Nebraska. Fred Knapp of Nebraska public media news is in Washington to bring us the latest.

Fred, what's the scene like down there?

FRED KNAPP: It's like a parade of trucks heading into the site of the leak. The site is in a pasture or farm field in the middle of a section about five miles northeast of town. I went out there this morning and was stopped by a policeman who's down from Beatrice. He was letting some people in...

POLICEMAN ON SCENE: Morning, sir, how are you? Good. How are you? I'm fine. I'm with the US Fish and Wildlife Services. Yeah, you guys have been patient. You see the badges. Alright. Thanks, sir. I have no idea. I'm just supposed to not let people in that's not supposed to be down there.

KNAPP: Reporters are some of those people that are not apparently supposed to be there.

REMBERT: Okay, so from as close as you were able to get, what did you see?

KNAPP: The parade of trucks: a waste disposal truck, a grader, trucks labeled for industrial services, Washington County Public Works, oilfield services, environmental restoration and Emergency Response Command trailer. And they were all headed for a spot I couldn't see very well from a half mile away, illuminated by klieg lights.

REMBERT: So a lot of cooks in the kitchen, it sounds like. But who's running the show?

KNAPP: Well, when I asked the policeman from Beatrice that he referred me to TC Energy's website for any information. It appears to be TC Energy that's running the show.

REMBERT: I saw that the Environmental Protection Agency said Mill Creek which flows into the Little Blue River and ultimately toward Manhattan, Kansas had been impacted by the spill. What can you tell us about that?

KNAPP: Well, I drove around the area and I got on a road that crosses Mill Creek, I'm guessing about a mile from the spill as the crow flies and maybe two as the creek meanders around. I didn't detect any oil or water or any smell, which you can from closer to the site.

REMBERT: So what's the status of the leak now?

KNAPP: The pipeline has shut down. The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration or PHMSA, which oversees pipelines, says it was shut down within seven minutes of a pressure drop being detected Wednesday night. But still TC Energy estimates about 14,000 barrels of oil escaped. That's almost 600,000 gallons, or almost as much oil as there is water in an Olympic sized swimming pool.

REMBERT: Wow. So what happens next?

KNAPP: PHMSA says the pipeline needs to remain shut down while the cause is investigated and fixed. And it can only restart when PHMSA approves and then it can only restart at 80% of the fuel pressure at least to begin with.

REMBERT: Thanks so much for your reporting. Fred, you deserve a big raise.

KNAPP: Thank you, Elizabeth. I'll pick that up with the powers that be when I get back to Lincoln