Ever since news broke that a Tesoro-owned pipeline had dumped some 22,000 barrels of oil into a farmer’s field near Tioga there’s been a scramble by the enemies of fossil fuels and their allies in the media to craft a narrative about oil industry negligence. Not to mention claims that North Dakota’s state government tried to cover it up.
But the oil spill was reported immediately by the oil company to the proper government authorities. Within hours of the spill being detected local, state and federal authorities were all in the loop. Containment and clean-up efforts were equally as swift. And now, it turns out the cause of the spill probably was probably mother nature:
Federal regulators say a lightning strike may have caused a pipeline rupture that spilled more than 20,000 barrels of oil in northwestern North Dakota.
The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (TPHMSA) said Thursday that a preliminary investigation “points to a strong electrical discharge as the cause of the failure.”
This preliminary finding, if upheld, doesn’t let Tesoro entirely off the hook. Lightening may have damaged the pipeline and caused the leak, but there’s still a question of how the oil was able to flow for so long from the leak without Tesoro noticing. Because Tesoro never picked up on it. It was the landowner who ultimately detected the spill and contacted authorities.
And there’s the question of how pipelines can be protected from future lightning strikes.
Still, though, this does take some wind out of the anti-oil sales. Unless they plan to chart a course into the unregulated world of lightening strikes.
In related news, the feds have given Tesoro permission to restart the pipeline.