Tag Archives: Army Corps of Engineers

U.S. Government Just Approved an Enormous Oil Pipeline

Repost from Mother Jones

The Government Quietly Just Approved This Enormous Oil Pipeline

Four reasons why people are outraged.

By Alexander Sammon, Aug. 12, 2016 6:00 AM
ewg3D/Thinkstock

It took seven years of protests, sit-ins, letter writing, and, finally, a presidential review to prevent the Keystone XL oil pipeline from being built. Now, in a matter of months, America’s newest mega-pipeline—the Dakota Access Pipeline Project (DAPL)—has quietly received full regulatory permission to begin construction. Known also as the Bakken Pipeline, the project is slated to run 1,172 miles of 30-inch diameter pipe from North Dakota’s northwest Bakken region down to a market hub outside Patoka, Illinois, where it will join extant pipelines and travel onward to refineries and markets in the Gulf and on the East Coast. If that description gives you déjà vu, it should: The Bakken Pipeline is only seven miles shorter than Keystone’s proposed length.

The proposed route of the recently approved Bakken Pipeline – Dakota Access

The $3.78 billion project is being built by Dakota Access, LLC, a unit of the Texas-based Energy Transfer Partners. (Former Texas Gov. Rick Perrya friend of Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, sits on ETP’s board.) According to the firm, the Bakken Pipeline will transport up to 570,000 barrels of crude oil per day. Advocates have celebrated the supposed 12,000 jobs the pipeline will create in construction, while repeating calls to end American dependence on foreign oil—a platform called into question by new laws allowing US producers to export crude. The US Army Corps of Engineers gave its blessing at the end of July, clearing the final hurdle for the massive infrastructure project, which is slated to be operational by the fourth quarter of 2016.

Though the project hasn’t gotten too much national media attention, there’s been plenty of local opposition. Groups like the Bakken Pipeline Resistance Coalition, a collective of 30-plus environmentalists’ and landowners’ associations, along with Native American groups, have cried foul. Here are the four things they’re most outraged by:

How many jobs…really: According to Dakota Access’s DAPL fact sheet, the pipeline will create 8,000 to 12,000 construction jobs. An earlier draft of those figures claimed 7,263 “job-years” to be created in Iowa alone. Not so fast, says professor David Swenson, associate scientist in the Department of Economics at Iowa State University. Swenson crunched the numbers himself and came to a much more modest conclusion: 1,500 jobs total per year in Iowa for the course of construction. And given that most of these jobs are skilled, Swenson expects many of the hires will be from out of state, as Iowan contractors specializing in large-scale underground pipe-fitting and welding are scarce. The long-term forecast for job creation is even bleaker. The Des Moines Register reports that there will only be 12 to 15 permanent employees once the pipeline is completed. (DAPL has since walked back its job estimate slightly.)

Spill, baby, spill: As Sierra Club’s Michael Brune puts it, “It’s not a question if a pipeline will malfunction, but rather a question of when.” And, though they spill less often than trains do, the International Energy Agency found that pipelines spill much more in terms of volume—three times as much between 2004 and 2012. The Bakken Pipeline’s route takes it through active farmland, forests, and across the heartland’s major rivers: The Big Sioux, the Missouri, and the Mississippi, some with multiple crossings, though the US Fish and Wildlife Service claims that no “critical habitat” is endangered. It also runs through sacred Native American lands (more on this below).

Enbridge Inc., a stakeholder in the Bakken pipeline, has a speckled track record on spills. In 2010, an Enbridge pipeline spilled 1.2 million gallons of crude into the Kalamazoo River, one of the worst inland spills in American history. Because the pipeline qualifies as a utility (despite being privately owned and for-profit), the Army Corps of Engineers was able to certify it without performing an environmental impact statement, as all utilities projects qualify as “minimal impact.” These projects are subject to environmental assessments every five years.

Don’t tread on me: Private property owners, particularly in Iowa, have bristled at the Bakken Pipeline’s expropriation of land. ETP asked the Iowa Utilities Board to grant it the powers of eminent domain, the process by which a government can repossess private property for public use even if the private property owner does not voluntarily sell. The IUB, a three-person committee appointed by Republican Gov. Terry Branstad, granted ETP that right for its for-profit private pipeline, a practice that is not uncommon, in order to purchase 475 parcels from resistant landowners. This has led to numerous pending lawsuits, with the Des Moines Register reporting that the issue may make it all the way to the Iowa Supreme Court. In May 2015, ETP was embroiled in scandal after a contracted land agent, working on behalf of the Bakken Pipeline, allegedly offered an Iowan landowner a teenage prostitute in exchange for voluntary access to his property. (No charges were brought after the Iowa Department of Criminal Investigation determined that the case did not meet the legal standard for pimping, solicitation, or conspiracy.)

DisRezpect: The pipeline will cross through sacred lands and pass under the Missouri River twice. For the Standing Rock Sioux, the Missouri provides drinking water and irrigation, while its riverbanks grow innumerable plants of cultural import, including sage and buffalo berries. The tribe launched a campaign called “Rezpect Our Water” and staged a 500-mile relay race in protest, hoping to sway the Army Corps of Engineers in the permitting process. Last weekend, a group of 30 Native youth completed a three-week run from North Dakota to Washington, DC, where they delivered a petition of 160,000 signatures opposing the pipeline’s construction.

Now, even though the Corps has given the go-ahead, the tribe has not given up the fight. They recently filed suit against the Corps in federal court. The suit seeks an injunction, asserting that the pipeline will “damage and destroy sites of great historic, religious, and cultural significance,” a violation of the National Historic Preservation Act.

Though the pipeline seems to be a done deal, resistance of all types continues. Last week, the Des Moines Register reported that authorities are investigating suspected arson against the ETP’s heavy machinery. The fires, three separate incidents across two Iowa counties, resulted in nearly $1 million in damage to bulldozers and backhoes. The acts appeared to be intentional incidents of monkeywrenching.

On Thursday, a group of protesters, including the Standing Rock Sioux and their allies, gathered in North Dakota to oppose the pipeline, blocking the construction site. The police ultimately broke up the demonstration, resulting in at least five arrests.

No Dakota Access pipeline from Camp of the Sacred Stones blockade @POTUS@FLOTUS@USACEHQ
2:03 PM – 11 Aug 2016

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    US House approves $279 million renewable energy cut; raises funding for fossil fuel research by $34 million

    Press Release from Friends of the Earth
    [Editor:  As you might expect, this travesty was passed on a nearly complete party line vote, with 230 Republicans and 10 Dems in favor.  Dems voting FOR the bill included:  A. Dutch Ruppersberger MD, Ami Bera CA, Brad Ashford NE, Collin Peterson MN, Doris Matsui CA, Filemon Vela TX, Gene Green TX, Henry Cuellar TX, Jim Costa CA, and William Keating MA.  Republicans voting AGAINST the bill included: Christopher Gibson NY, James Sensenbrenner Jr. WI, Joseph Heck NV, Justin Amash MI, Mo Brooks AL, Thomas Massie KY, Walter Jones Jr. NC.   Track the bill here.  – RS]

    House approves $279 million renewable energy cut

    By: Kate Colwell, May. 1, 2015

    WASHINGTON, D.C. — The House of Representatives passed H.R. 2028, “The Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies Appropriations Act of 2016,” by a vote of 240-177.

    The bill sets funding levels for important programs within the U.S. Departments of Energy, Interior, and the Army Corps of Engineers. While staying within the limits set by the sequester, the bill manages to raise funding for fossil fuel research by $34 million from 2015 levels while cutting renewable energy and efficiency research by $279 million. Simultaneously, it is packed with policy riders that undermine bedrock environmental laws like the Clean Water Act and limit the Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to study the dangers of hydraulic fracturing.

    Friends of the Earth Climate and Energy Campaigner Lukas Ross issued the following statement in response:

    Shoveling more of our tax dollars into the pockets of ExxonMobil and the Koch Brothers while defunding clean energy is climate denial at its worst. Fossil fuel interests don’t need more money. Solutions to the climate crisis do.

    From hobbling the Clean Water Act to limiting the Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to even study fracking, House Speaker John Boehner is continuing his assault on the air we breathe and the water we drink.

    ###

    Expert contact: Lukas Ross, (202) 222-0724, lross@foe.org
    Communications contact: Kate Colwell, (202) 222-0744, kcolwell@foe.org
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      Publicity-stunt sit-ins, council resolutions won’t stop oil trains

      Repost from Seattle PI.com
      [Editor: This is a challenging think-piece for opponents of crude by rail.  Personally, I believe that sit-ins, songs and resolutions have a place in a multi-faceted approach to organizing against big oil and rail.  But Connelly has a point – we need to think hard and long on serious strategies for success.  – RS]

      Publicity-stunt sit-ins, council resolutions won’t stop oil trains

      Posted on August 1, 2014 | By Joel Connelly
      A sight that won't be stopped by sit-ins and City Council resolutions:  A coal train passes an oil train after tanker cars derailed in Magnolia this morning.  Oil and coal could become the Northwest's "supreme shipping commodities" crowding our trade dependent economy..
      A sight that won’t be stopped by sit-ins and City Council resolutions: A coal train passes an oil train after tanker cars derailed in Magnolia this morning. Oil and coal could become the Northwest’s “supreme shipping commodities” crowding our trade dependent economy.

      In watching the Seattle City Council’s ritual of passing whereas-heavy, symbolic resolutions over the years, an observer can come way believing the council’s prime purpose in life is to send demonstrators home happy.

      The response to oil trains, arriving in every greater numbers, is the latest example of Seattle’s insular, echo chamber politics.  Its product is meaningless symbolism.

      Councilman Mike O’Brien gins up an oil train resolution, much as he did on Occupy Seattle.  Council member Kshama Sawant shows up at the BNSF tracks for her demonstration of the day.  A Sawant mini-me running for the Legislature gets arrested.  The news is telephoned to a Stranger reporter who is supporting the candidate.

      Will any of this impact the Burlington Northern-Santa Fe Railroad?  Will it influence the business of giant refiners like BP and Tesoro, increasingly dependent on rail shipments of Bakken crude oil from North Dakota?

      Of course not.  The carbon economy has the Interstate Commerce Act on its side.  The U.S. Department of Transportation seems intent on accommodating shippers in its rule-making. Refineries support 2,000-plus jobs in northern Puget Sound.

      For instance, the USDOT’s proposed safety rules tout a “two year” required phase out of old, explosion-prone tanker cars.  When you read the fine print, phase out period begins in September 2015.

      Seattle_City_Hall_2014-02-21
      Concerned citizens rally for the need of a statewide moratorium on potentially dangerous oil-by-rail projects Friday, Feb. 21, 2014, at City Hall in Seattle. Oil trains have exploded in different regions in the U.S., causing death and property damages. (Jordan Stead, seattlepi.com)

      Here is how critics can effectively put the heat on, and deal their way into the safety debate. The recent and ongoing coal port/coal train battle is a model for dealing with obtuse agencies and potentially more lethal cargoes:

      – Mass support, not just driblets:  Somewhere in Seattle, somebody (usually Kshama Sawant) is demonstrating every day.  Protests pant after a moment on the evening TV news.  Often, they leave as much impression as footprints in the snow.

      By contrast, a well-planned event can signal (to politicians) that a movement has staying power.  It registered when 395 people packed a Bellingham City Club meeting for a debate on the proposed Gateway Pacific Terminal.  Sponsors had appears to have it greased.  A bigger impression was made 2,500 people who showed up for a federal-state “scoping” hearing in Seattle.

      In this image made available by the City of Lynchburg, several CSX tanker cars carrying crude oil in flames after derailing in downtown Lynchburg, Va., Wednesday, April 30, 2014. (AP Photo/City of Lynchburg, LuAnn Hunt)

      – An agenda, not 1960′s slogans:  Coalport/coal train port critics asked  for an independent, comprehensive look  at impacts trains will have across Washington.  They wanted environmental studies to look at climate consequences of providing economical fuel to keep aging Chinese power plants in operation.

      It is absurd, for instance, for the Army Corps of Engineers to limit “transportation” to the seven-mile spur line from Custer to Cherry Point in Whatcom County.  Big coal, railroads and construction unions were flummoxed by a reasonable demand.

      – A real coalition, not just a paper list:  Seattle “coalitions” are populated by the usual suspects.  A real movement gets a cross-section of recruits.  Montana ranchers are not keen to see their land torn up.  Firefighters worry that long trains will block waterfront access, and (with oil) that they’ll be left holding the bag when a 1960′s-vintage tanker car blows up.

      The proposed Pebble Mine, near Alaska’s Bristol Bay, shows REAL reach-out.  Opposition began with greens, quickly embraced Alaska’s commercial and sport fisheries, gained backing from the powerful Bristol Bay Native Corp., expanded to Washington fishermen, and found roles for restaurant chefs and major jewelry companies.

      – Political work horses, not show horses:  Behind all the posturing on coal ports, state Rep. Reuven Carlyle, D-Seattle, put together letters to the feds and state laying out — precisely — potential impacts that must be known.  The letters helped shape the charge given by Gov. Jay Inslee to the Department of Ecology.

      Security vehicles are shown at a gate to a Tesoro Corp. refinery , Friday, April 2, 2010, in Anacortes, Wash. An overnight fire and explosion at the refinery killed at least three people working at the plant. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

      With oil trains, Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., recently cornered — and treed — USDOT Secretary Anthony Foxx at a recent hearing.  She delivered a message that MUST be driven home.  Faux safety measures won’t cut it.  Cantwell and Carlyle don’t go for whereas clauses.

      – Fact and evidence, not just hyperbole:  Exaggeration is a basic activist weapon, broadly deployed.  It gets people riled, but has limited staying power.  What’s needed are activist-experts who learn the stuff, and steep themselves in places to be impacted.

      A lighter touch should be put on heavy handed manipulation of the media.  Certain web sites and outlets can be counted on to spout the party line.  Others aren’t content to simply be fed.

      The carbon economy is coming our way — big time — with proposed coal export terminals, a big terminal to receive oil trains (in Vancouver, Wash.), coal and oil trains taking over the rails, plus pipeline terminals and oil export ports in British Columbia.

      It’s not going to be turned back by sit-ins or Council resolutions in a city with less than 10 percent of Washington’s population.

      Seattle politics is sandlot.  What we’re facing, and trying to influence, is a big-league challenge.

       

       

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