Category Archives: Pipeline infrastructure

North Dakota pipeline construction halted until court date

Repost from Minnesota Public Radio

North Dakota pipeline construction halted until court date

Business Associated Press · Bismarck, N.D. · Aug 18, 2016
Native Americans protest Dakota Access pipeline
Native Americans protest Dakota Access pipeline. James MacPherson | AP Photo File

Developers of a four-state oil pipeline have agreed to halt construction of the project in southern North Dakota until a federal court hearing next week in Washington, D.C.

The temporary construction shutdown comes amid growing protests and increased tension over the Dakota Access Pipeline that is intended to cross the Missouri River near the Standing Rock Sioux reservation that straddles the North Dakota-South Dakota border.

Some things to know about the pipeline and the protest:

What is the Dakota Access Pipeline?

Dallas-based Energy Transfer Partners’ Dakota Access Pipeline is a $3.8 billion, 1,172-mile project that would carry nearly a half-million barrels of crude oil daily from North Dakota’s oil fields through South Dakota and Iowa to an existing pipeline in Patoka, Illinois, where shippers can access Midwest and Gulf Coast markets.

Why the protest?

The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe is suing federal regulators for approving the oil pipeline that would be the largest-capacity one carrying crude out of western North Dakota’s oil patch.

The tribes’ lawsuit filed last month in federal court in Washington challenges the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ decision to grant permits at more than 200 water crossings in four states for the pipeline.

The tribe argues the pipeline that would be placed less than a mile upstream of the reservation could impact drinking water for the more than 8,000 tribal members and the millions who rely on it further downstream.

The lawsuit, filed on behalf of the tribe by environmental group Earthjustice, said the project violates several federal laws, including the National Historic Preservation Act.

The tribe worries the project will disturb ancient sacred sites outside of the 2.3-million acre reservation. The hearing on the tribe’s request for a temporary injunction is slated for Wednesday.

Who are the protesters?

Mostly members of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, but they’ve been joined by other American Indians and non-Native Americans from across the country. “Divergent” actress Shailene Woodley was part of the protests last week.

Arrests

American Indians have for months been staging a nonviolent protest at a “spirit camp” at the confluence of the Cannonball and Missouri rivers in the path of the pipeline.

More than a dozen young people from the reservation also ran from North Dakota to Washington to deliver 140,000 petition signatures to the Corps to protest the pipeline.

The protest took a turn last week when law enforcement was called to keep the peace between protesters and armed security guards hired by the company.

Twenty-eight people have been arrested since then and charged with interfering with the pipeline construction, including Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Chairman David Archambault II.

Developers on Monday sued in federal court to stop protesters, alleging the safety of workers and law enforcement is at risk.

Is the pipeline safe?

The company said the pipeline would include safeguards such as leak detection equipment, and workers monitoring the pipeline remotely in Texas could close block valves on it within three minutes if a breach is detected.

Why the need

Energy Transfer Partners announced the Dakota Access pipeline in 2014, a few days after North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple urged industry and government officials to build more pipelines to keep pace with the state’s oil production, which is second only to Texas’.

Supporters said the pipeline would create more markets for the state’s oil and gas, and reduce truck and oil train traffic, the latter of which has been a growing concern after a spate of fiery derailments of trains carrying North Dakota crude, including one near Dalrymple’s hometown of Casselton in 2013, and an explosion in Quebec that same year that killed 47 people.

    Exxon, other refineries affected as Louisiana waters rise

    Repost from Bloomberg News
    [Editor: You can count on the oil industry to prevaricate. The Baton Rouge Advocate reports that ExxonMobil released a statement disputing this Bloomberg report. “‘Contrary to some reports, the ExxonMobil Baton Rouge Complex is operating. It is our practice not to comment on specific unit operations at our facilities,’ the company said.”  – RS]

    Exxon Said to Slow Louisiana Refinery as People Escape Flood

    By Barbara J Powell & Brian K Sullivan, August 17, 2016 6:13 AM PDT, Updated 4:14 PM PDT

    • Fourth-largest U.S. refinery affected as waters rise
    • Louisiana is home to about 18% of U.S. refining capacity

    Exxon Mobil Corp. curbed operations at the fourth-largest U.S. refinery as record flooding in Louisiana shut roadways, sent tens of thousands fleeing from their homes and threatened the state’s oil infrastructure.

    The Baton Rouge refinery along the Mississippi shut four production units and idled others when the flooding threatened an offsite liquefied petroleum gas storage facility and pumping station, a person familiar with operations said early Wednesday. The refinery can process 502,500 barrels of crude a day into gasoline, diesel and other fuels.

    At least 11 people have died, 30,000 people rescued and 40,000 homes have been damaged as almost 2 feet (61 centimeters) of rain fell in parts of southern Louisiana, the Associated Press reported Wednesday. Flood warnings extended across much of the southern portions of the state with many bayous and rivers still at dangerous levels. Louisiana is home to about 18 percent of U.S. refining capacity, according to Energy Information Administration data.

    Pipelines, Terminals

    Most in danger from direct disruption from flooding is the support infrastructure consisting of pipelines, terminals, salt caverns and above-ground pumping stations, said Andy Lipow, president of Lipow Oil Associates in Houston.

    “Those that supply support services to refineries could be in danger of shutting down, and that could impact refineries’ operations,” Lipow said.

    Todd Spitler, an Exxon spokesman, said the refinery is operating. The company doesn’t comment on specific unit operations and has continued to meet contractual commitments, he said

    Through Tuesday, Baton Rouge had received 22.11 inches of rain since the start of August, more than 19 inches above normal, according to the National Weather Service. New Orleans got 7.46 inches, or 4.35 above normal; Lake Charles had 11.22 inches, or 8.69 above normal; and Lafayette logged 23.19, or 20.81 higher than the 30-year average.

    Governor John Bel Edwards declared an emergency on Friday. Residents in 20 parishes are eligible for federal assistance and in two days 39,000 people have registered, the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness said.

    Motiva Convent

    Motiva Enterprises LLC said in an online message to employees Wednesday afternoon that it will staff its Convent refinery, about 38 miles southeast of Baton Rouge, with only essential personnel through at least Sunday. The company had previously said the restriction would last until Wednesday.

    Angela Goodwin, a Motiva spokeswoman, didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. She said Tuesday that operations at Motiva’s Convent and its Norco refinery, about 38 miles to the south, are stable.

    Gulf Coast fuel prices climbed early Wednesday on the prospect of refinery outages. Ultra-low sulfur diesel strengthened 1 cent to 2.75 cents below New York Mercantile Exchange futures, the narrowest discount since November 2014, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Conventional gasoline gained 1.88 cents to trade near parity with futures for the first time in four days.

      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