Fact Check: AOC misspoke when blaming the unbuilt Keystone XL pipeline for a leak

The claim: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez blamed the unbuilt Keystone XL pipeline for leaking oil

U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has been a common target for conservatives since taking office in 2019 as the youngest woman ever elected to Congress.

A widely shared Facebook post honed in on a comment the New York Democrat made about an oil spill in South Dakota.

"Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez blamed the Keystone XL pipeline for leaking about 5,000 barrels of oil in rural South Dakota about two years ago," says an April 10 Facebook post that has been shared more than 27,000 times. "There's just one problem... the Keystone XL pipeline has not been built yet."

The post echoes a 2019 article from the Daily Signal, which states Ocasio-Cortez blamed the Keystone XL pipeline for leaking oil in rural South Dakota about two years ago.

Ocasio-Cortez did say that, but it's not quite the absurdist blunder the post makes it out to be. USA TODAY reached out to the poster for comment.

There was a Keystone oil spill

In a March 12, 2019, exchange during a House Financial Services Committee hearing, Ocasio-Cortez did indeed say the Keystone XL pipeline had leaked.

"The Keystone XL in particularly had one leak that leaked 210,000 gallons across South Dakota," Ocasio-Cortez said at the hearing.

The exchange occurred as she questioned Wells Fargo CEO Timothy Sloan about whether his company should help pay for the cleanup. Sloan responded that Wells Fargo wasn't part of financing the Keystone Pipeline section that failed.

Of course, Ocasio-Cortetz was also wrong to label that pipeline as the Keystone XL, which is the unbuilt fourth phase of the Keystone pipeline. President Joe Biden put an end to that project in January when he pulled the border crossing permit, citing concerns over the potential climate impact.

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But the leak did involve the Keystone Pipeline.

Ocasio-Cortez was referring to a November 2017 incident in which 210,000 gallons of oil was reported to have leaked from the Keystone Pipeline in South Dakota. She also tweeted about the leak when it occurred.

Several months later, according to The Associated Press, the leak was found to be twice as big as was originally reported.

It was the largest Keystone oil spill in South Dakota, Brian Walsh, a spokesman for the state’s Department of Environment and Natural Resources, told CNN in 2017.

Since then other leaks have occurred from the Keystone Pipeline, such as one in 2019 in which more than 380,000 gallons of oil leaked in North Dakota. Currently, the Keystone Pipeline extends from Hardisty, Alberta, through to Winnipeg, and then all the way down from North Dakota to Texas, with a branch going to Illinois. The Keystone XL pipeline would have created a diagonal route, cutting through Montana, South Dakota and Nebraska.

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Ocasio-Cortez’s press secretary, Ivet Contreras, did not return USA TODAY’s request for comment.

Our Rating: Missing context

The claim that Ocasio-Cortez said the unbuilt Keystone XL pipeline was the source of an oil spill is MISSING CONTEXT. She did say that, but the post ignores that the oil spill was part of the Keystone Pipeline, meaning her description was off by a couple letters, not necessarily a reflection that Ocasio-Cortez was unaware the XL pipeline hadn't yet been built.

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fact Check: AOC misspoke when blaming Keystone XL pipeline for a leak