By Chandrika Narayan, CNN
(CNN)Activists who have demonstrated for months against the Dakota Access Pipeline may have some fuel to justify their protests.
A spill has occurred 150 miles from Cannon Ball, North Dakota, where protesters have fought construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline.
Officials estimate 4,200 barrels of crude oil have leaked.
State officials estimate 4,200 barrels of crude oil, or 176,000 gallons, have leaked from the Belle Fourche Pipeline in Billings County.
Of that amount, 130,000 gallons of oil has flowed into Ash Coulee Creek, while the rest leaked onto a hillside, said Bill Suess, spill investigation program manager at the North Dakota Department of Health. Built in the 1980s, the pipeline is 6 inches in diameter and transports about 1,000 barrels of oil daily, he said. The leak happened December 5.
“Any time it gets into water, we respond differently and we take it more seriously,” Suess said. He said more than 100 people are working to clean up the spill. Investigators are still trying to determine the cause, he said.
The incident happened less than a three-hour drive from Cannon Ball, where protests led by the Standing Rock Sioux tribe have simmered for months over the 1,172-mile Dakota Access Pipeline. The $3.7 billion project would connect oil-rich areas of North Dakota to Illinois, where the crude oil could then be transported to refineries on the Gulf Coast or the East Coast.
The demonstrations have turned violent at times.
Military veterans march in support of protesters at the Standing Rock Sioux reservation on December 5.
The Standing Rock Sioux tribe sued the US Army Corps of Engineers after the pipeline was granted final permits in July. The tribe said the project will not only threaten its environmental and economic well-being, but will also cut through sacred land. It said construction would destroy burial sites, prayer sites and culturally significant artifacts.
Companies behind the project have pushed back.
The Dakota Access Pipeline would transport 470,000 barrels of oil a day across four states, Energy Access Partners said.
It will pass through an oil-rich area in North Dakota with an estimated 7.4 billion barrels of undiscovered oil. This oil would be shipped to markets and refineries in the Midwest, East Coast and Gulf Coast regions.
By the numbers
1,172 miles: Length of Dakota Access Pipeline
30 inches: Width of the pipeline
470,000: Barrels of crude oil to be moved daily
374.3 million: Equivalent gallons of gasoline per day
Sources: Energy Access Partners, US Energy Information Administration
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