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Keystone Pipeline Shut Down After Leaking 383,000 Gallons of Tar Sands Oil and Nobody’s Talking About It

October’s spill solidified opposition to the Keystone XL project—a proposed expansion to the pipeline.

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(TMU)UPDATE (11.6.19): TC Energy now estimates that roughly 383,000 gallons (or 9,120 barrels) of tar sands oil spilled from their pipeline in North Dakota on or leading up to October 29.

The Keystone Pipeline was approved in 2006, despite strong opposition to the project. The pipeline began pumping in 2010 and now carries thick tar sands oil mixed with a cocktail of chemicals to decrease the viscosity from the tar sands fields of Alberta, Canada to Patoka, Illinois.

TC Energy estimated that the pipeline would spill 11 times in 50 years, which amounts to roughly once every seven years. However, the pipeline has spilled four times since it first began working in 2010—that’s already four spills in nine years.

When tar sands oil leaks, the chemical diluents evaporate, causing a quick bout of toxic air pollution in the surrounding area, leaving behind a very thick and heavy oil called bitumen. According to Diane Orihel, professor of aquatic ecotoxicology at Queen’s University, “Once bitumen sinks to the bottom of a lake or wetland, it is much more problematic to clean up than conventional oil, which floats nicely and can be skimmed off the surface.” 

The Keystone Pipeline crosses multiple wetland areas in the Dakotas with the most recent spill having unfortunately affected one of these important breeding grounds for migratory birds. And thanks to the agriculture industry, the total acreage of wetlands covering the Dakotas continues to decrease, with or without oil spills.

October’s spill has solidified opposition to the Keystone XL project—a proposed expansion to the pipeline.

“The spill confirms what we have been warning people about over the last 10 years,” said Jeanne Crumly, whose cattle ranch sits along Keystone XL’s approved path.

According to Reuters, “TC Energy had already begun eminent domain proceedings against 89 families who live along the Keystone XL route.”

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A pipeline carrying tar sands oil into the United States from Canada has reportedly leaked an unknown amount of oil across North Dakota. The pipeline’s owner, TC Energy—formerly known as TransCanada—shut down the pipeline as a result of the leak.

“TC Energy immediately began the process to shut down the pipeline, activated its emergency response procedures and dispatched ground technicians to assess the situation,” the company said.

According to State Environmental Quality Chief Dave Glatt, regulators were notified of the crude oil leak near the town of Edinburg in northeastern North Dakota late on Tuesday after detecting a drop in pressure. The oil was reportedly leaked over an area that regulators have estimated to be about 1,500 feet long by 15 feet wide as of Wednesday afternoon.

The Calgary, Alberta-based company is working to contain the spill, the cause of which is currently under investigation. Area roads are closed as the clean-up and investigation continues.

According to Glatt, area drinking water was not affected by the spill though some wetlands were affected.

It is unclear when the leak began and for low long it has been leaking.

At a cost of $5.2 billion, the 590,000-barrel-per-day Keystone pipeline, which began pumping crude oil in 2010, is part of a 2,687-mile system that would include the Keystone XL pipeline, if approved.

Just yesterday, tribal officer Kip Spotted Eagle told a South Dakota state panel that the proposed Keystone XL pipeline should not be allowed to divert water from three rives in South Dakota. The Yankton Sioux Tribe historic preservation officer said the proposed pipeline project could infringe on tribes’ hunting and fishing.

The $8 billion project is seeking permits to use water from the Cheyenne, White, and Bad rivers in South Dakota. The state’s Department of Environment and Natural Resources has recommended the board grant the permits.

By Emma Fiala | Creative Commons | TheMindUnleashed.com

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Animals

Scientists Thrilled by Discovery of Rare, Mammoth 400-Year-Old Coral

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A massive 400-year-old hard coral discovered on the Great Barrier Reef has scientists expressing their sense of surprise and excitement.

Named Muga dambhi by the Manbarra people, the Indigenous group who have traditionally taken care of the land, the “exceptionally large” brown and cream-colored coral is located off the coast of Goolboodi or Orpheus Island in the Great Barrier Reef.

It is believed that the coral was spawned some 421 to 438 years ago, meaning that its age predates the arrival of Captain James Cook and the advent of colonization in Australia, notes the Guardian.

The spectacular coral is about 35 feet wide and over 17 feet high, and is double the size of the nearest coral.

Scientists and members of the community participating in a marine science course discovered the specimen earlier this year.

While not the largest coral in the world, the huge find is of major significance to the local ecosystem, according to Adam Smith, an adjunct professor at James Cook University who wrote the field note on the find.

“It’s like a block of apartments,” Smith said. “It attracts other species. There’s other corals, there’s fish, there’s other animals around that use it for shelter or for feeding, so it’s pretty important for them.”

“It’s a bit like finding a giant redwood tree in the middle of a botanic gardens,” he added.

It is likely that the coral hasn’t been discovered for such a long time due to its location in a relatively remote and unvisited portion of a Marine National Park zone that enjoys a high degree of protection.

“Over the last 20 or 30 years, no one has noticed, or observed, or thought it newsworthy enough to share photos, or document, or do research on this giant coral,” Smith said.

The coral is in remarkable condition, with over 70 percent of its surface covered in live coral, coral rock and microalgae. No disease, bleaching or recently deceased coral has been recorded on the specimen.

“The cumulative impact of almost 100 bleaching events and up to 80 major cyclones over a period of four centuries, plus declining nearshore water quality contextualise the high resilience of this Porites coral,” the field note added.

The specific coral has been given the name Muga dhambi, meaning big coral, out of respect for the Indigenous knowledge, language, and culture of the Manbarra Traditional Owners.

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Environment

Greenland Ice Washed Away as Summit Sees Rain for First Time in Recorded History

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For the first time in recorded history, torrential downpours of rain have struck Greenland’s icy summit nearly two miles above sea level.

Greenland, an environmentally sensitive island, is typically known for its majestic ice sheet and snowy climate, but this is fast changing due to a massive melt taking place this summer.

However, the typical snowfall has been replaced in recent years not simply by a few showers, but by heavy rainfall. The torrential downpour last week was so huge, in fact, that it washed away a terrifying amount of ice across some 337,000 square miles of the ice shelf’s surface, reports Earther.

Temperatures at the ice shelf had simultaneously warmed to a significant degree, with the summit reaching 33 degrees Fahrenheit – within a degree above freezing and the third time that the shelf has surpassed freezing temperatures this decade.

The fact that rain is falling on ice rather than snow is also significant because it is melting ice across much of southern Greenland, which already saw huge melting events last month, while hastening rising sea levels that threaten to submerge whole coastal cities and communities.

To make matters worse, any new ice formed by the freezing rainwater will not last long. The ice shelf currently existing on Greenland was formed by the compression of snow over innumerable years, which shines bright white and reflects sunlight away rather than absorbing it, as ice from frozen rain does.

The huge scale of the melt and accompanying rainfall illustrate the growing peril of rapidly warming climate conditions across the globe.

“This event by itself does not have a huge impact, but it’s indicative of the increasing extent, duration, and intensity of melting on Greenland,” wrote Ted Scambos, a senior research scientist at the National Snow and Ice Data Center at the University of Colorado. “Like the heat wave in the [U.S. Pacific] northwest, it’s something that’s hard to imagine without the influence of global climate change.”

“Greenland, like the rest of the world, is changing,” Scambos told the Washington Post. “We now see three melting events in a decade in Greenland — and before 1990, that happened about once every 150 years. And now rainfall: in an area where rain never fell.”

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Environment

South Korean Toilet Turns Poo Into Green Energy and Pays Its Users Digital Cash

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What if your morning #2 not only powered your stove to cook your eggs, but also allowed you to pay for your coffee and pastry on the way to class?

It seems like an absurd question, but one university in South Korea has invented a toilet that allows human excrement to not only be used for clean power, but also dumps a bit of digital currency into your wallet that can be exchanged for some fruit or cup noodles at the campus canteen, reports Reuters.

The BeeVi toilet – short for Bee-Vision – was designed by urban and environmental engineering professor Cho Jae-weon of the Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology (UNIST), and is meant to not only save resources but also reward students for their feces.

The toilet is designed to first deliver your excrement into a special underground tank, reducing water use, before microorganisms break the waste down into methane, a clean source of energy that can power the numerous appliances that dorm life requires.

“If we think out of the box, feces has precious value to make energy and manure,” Cho explained. “I have put this value into ecological circulation.”

The toilet can transform approximately a pound of solid human waste – roughly the average amount people poop per day – into some 50 liters of methane gas, said Cho. That’s about enough to generate half a kilowatt hour of electricity, enough to transport a student throughout campus for some of their school day.

Cho has even devised a special virtual currency for the BeeVi toilet called Ggool, or honey in Korean. Users of the toilet can expect to earn 10 Ggool per day, covering some of the many expenses students rack up on campus every day.

Students have given the new system glowing reviews, and don’t even mind discussing their bodily functions at lunchtime – even expressing their hopes to use their fecal credits to purchase books.

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