Posted October 21, 2013
Steve Jensen discovered a 20,000 barrel oil spill on his 1,800 acre wheat farm in Tioga, North Dakota, the largest oil spill on U.S. soil, according to a Fox News article available here
Jensen, who found the leak on September 29, said that the oil was gushing from a “perfectly round, quarter-inch hole with “about 100 pounds pressure.”  Most of the spilled oil was underground, but Jensen said he “could see the oil bubbling 6 inches high on his land while he was out harvesting durum wheat.”  Before it was plugged, an estimated 26,600 barrels of crude oil, enough to fill three Olympic-size swimming pools, leaked on his property.  
The spill came from a 20-year-old pipeline owned by a San Antonio-based company, Tesoro Logistics.  The pipeline runs from the Bakken formation, under Jensen’s farm, carrying oil 45 miles north to a rail facility.
Tesaro said it will repair and replace a 200-foot section of the tube, and once “extracted, a portion of the pipeline will be sent to an independent lab for analysis,” according Tesoro spokeswoman Megan Arrendondo.
Jensen said, “I’m not going to be able to farm that land for a few years and they’ll be compensation for sure…We’re looking at a two to three-year clean up.” 
Officials claim no water was contaminated and no wildlife was hurt, but environmental groups are skeptical.  Jensen said that the area hit “isn’t home to much wildlife,” noting that the spill is “pretty detrimental to any living organism that in the ground.”  He also said that any grain within a half mile of the spill would not be sold for consumption.
North Dakota officials are trying to determine if Tesoro knew about potential problems with the pipeline, including one deemed “serious,” according to an article by the Associated Press available here.
Dave Glatt, Chief of the state Department of Health’s environmental health section said that regulators want to know more about inspections conducted before the spill.  “We have heard they may have found some anomalies in the metal, but not necessarily holes.” 
In a statement to the Associated Press, Tesoro said it “inspected the pipeline about two weeks before the spill was reported using a robotic device called a ‘smart pig’ that travels through a pipeline to search for corrosion and other problems.”
Purdue University engineering professor Steve Werley said that Tesoro’s calculation of how much oil spilled is “at best, a guess.”  Werley said, “Both the environmental impact and the liability of the company are directly related to the precise amount of the release…That is why it is critical to know.”


For more information on environmental law, please visit the National Agricultural Law Center’s website here.