Hundreds of North Dakota oil spills hidden from public

Nearly 300 oil spills in North Dakota have been hidden from the public according to a new report by the Associate Press.

The AP's James MacPherson reports:

North Dakota, the nation's No. 2 oil producer behind Texas, recorded nearly 300 oil pipeline spills in less than two years, state documents show. None was reported to the public, officials said.

According to records obtained by The Associated Press, the pipeline spills, many of them small, are among some 750 "oil field incidents" that have occurred since January 2012 without public notification.

According to MacPherson, the recent pipeline spill in which 20,600 barrels were spilled in a wheat field was kept quiet for 11 days until the AP asked about it.

Dennis Fewless, director of water quality for the state Health Department, said regulators are reviewing the state's policies for when to publicly report such incidents after a massive spill was discovered last month in northwestern north Dakota by a wheat farmer. State and company officials kept it quiet for 11 days — and only said something after the AP asked about it.

North Dakota regulators, like in many other oil-producing states, are not obliged to tell the public about oil spills under state law. But in a state that's producing a million barrels a day and saw nearly 2,500 miles of new pipelines last year, many believe the risk of spills will increase, posing a bigger threat to farmland and water.

"We're certainly looking at that now and what would be a threshold for reporting to the public," Fewless said. Taking notice of the recent criticism, the state issued a statement Oct .17 on an estimated 7-barrel oil spill in Divide County, which borders Canada in far northwestern North Dakota.

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IMAGE: Video shows oil pipeline spills since 1986

Tags: Oil | Oil Spill