A Cheyenne River Sioux youth delegation, with tribal flag and staff, offered testimony during a public comment period at a South Dakota Water Management Board hearing on permitting Keystone XL Pipeline Construction. Photo courtesy Dakota Rural Action

Bakken cough: An oil field workers dilemma

MANDAREE, North Dakota – New oil-and-gas pipeline protection measures could help people like Mandan Hidatsa & Arikara tribal member Lisa Deville and her family, who suffer from pollution leaking into air, land and water at the heart of the fracking industry’s Bakken Formation here on the Ft. Berthold Indian Reservation.

The DeVilles live less than a mile away from facilities that produce, store, and transport natural gas. In August of 2017, she and her husband became ill with what she termed “debilitating respiratory infections.” She said they went to the McKenzie County Clinic, where a physician told them that they had the same symptoms as oil field workers treated at the clinic, known as the “Bakken Cough.”

She claims it took them eight weeks to recover, despite a steroid injection for him and a prescription of more medication for her. “We were miserable during those eight weeks, and we live in constant fear of the next devastating illness caused by exposure to heavily polluted air,” she told the Native Sun News Today.

Recently they learned of increased nosebleeds and illness at the Mandaree Public School where their children attend, so the November 15 introduction in the U.S. Congress of the “SAFER Pipelines Act of 2019” provided them some cause for optimism.

The bill [H.R.5120] aims to reinstate a languishing 2016 EPA final rule that set limitations on methane emissions across the natural gas and hazardous liquid pipeline sector. A rollback to that rule had been slated, with comments having been due November 25.

Concurring with the proposed legislation to counter the rollback, DeVille declared, “The EPA has a responsibility to defend the health and safety of American families like mine, and that means strengthening protections against methane pollution, not rolling them back.”

SAFER stands for “Safe, Accountable, Fair, and Environmentally Responsible” in the proposed law designed as “comprehensive” pipeline legislation to improve safety and address climate change “by reducing emissions, preventing pipeline leaks, and holding pipeline operators accountable for reckless actions,” according to its sponsors.

But they didn’t stop with introduction of the bill. On November 18, as tar-sands crude oil, or diluted bitumen (dilbit), again began gushing through TC Energy Corp.’s calamity-prone Keystone I Pipeline following its latest shutdown for a major leak, Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Oregon) and Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-New Jersey) officially targeted the Canadian corporation for a federal investigation.

Joined by Rep. Bobby L. Rush (D-Illinois) and Rep. Dan Lipinski, (D-Illinois), they requested the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) conduct an operator review of the entire Keystone Pipeline System as well as the agency that oversees it.

The leaking dilbit, some 383,000 gallons (9,000-barrels) of toxic material, caused a shutdown of the Keystone I Pipeline after discovery of the damage to wetlands October 30, near Edinburg, located 75 miles northwest of Grand Forks, according to the North Dakota Department of Environmental Quality.

The “Edinburg Incident”, as TC Energy Corp. dubbed the mishap in Walsh County, is the third major spill from the pipeline in as many years -- the twenty-first on the line since it opened in 2010.


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Contact Talli Nauman at talli.nauman@)gmail.com

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