Seeing the Round Corners

August 8, 2016


   The Bakken Pipeline (the Bakken), described as being “nearly as long as the Keystone XL” has been fully approved, according to Climate Progress. The pipeline route runs from the Bakken Oil Formation in North Dakota to a market hub in Patoka, Illinois, a distance of some 1,150 miles (1,168 depending on the source of the figure).

   There are a number of unique aspects employed to get this one approved with sections built even though several lawsuits are pending. Not all permits have been approved and issued. Eminent domain has even been used in certain areas of the route to force landowners to grant rights of way.

   What is disturbing and suspicious to this writer is the lack of publicity on a nationwide level this pipeline has “not been given” when compared to the Keystone XL pipeline (1,179 miles). What is left unsaid about the Keystone is that a Keystone pipeline already exists. The expansion (Keystone XL) is what all the hoopla in recent years was about and was seldom made clear.

   The Bakken Pipeline is actually made up of two pipelines – one from western North Dakota to a terminal in Illinois, referred to as the Dakota Access Pipeline. The second portion is the Energy Transfer Crude Oil Pipeline (ETCOP), a route from Illinois to the Texas Gulf Coast.

   Various American Indian tribes have attempted to fight the Bakken because of the route through sacred tribal grounds. The Iowa Department of Natural Resources bowed to pressure from oil companies and issued a sovereign lands construction permit despite objections by the tribes. A stop-work order was then issued because of “possible disruption of a sacred site of the Sioux tribe to the south of Blood Run” where an estimated 6,000 to 10,000 people lived 500 years ago in a vast complex of villages along Blood Run Creek and the Big Sioux River in Lyon County, “believed to be one of the biggest population aggregate in the Midwest.”

   The oil companies and their massive legal resources evidently left no stone unturned to gain the sovereign lands construction permit:  “Instead of digging a trench for a route through the Big Sioux River Wildlife Management Area, the pipeline will be located about 85 feet underground by using special boring equipment. The bottom line is that they will go around the area by going underneath it,” according to Department of Natural Resources spokesman Kevin Baskins. This despite an Iowa State Archaeologist's visit to the site who backtracked on his first decision to go along with approval, and voiced a new recommendation after his visit to avoid a disruption of the area. Needless to say and noteworthy is how a leak at 85 feet deep would be repaired – obviously digging from the surface, widespread damage to the surrounding surface, and irreparable contamination to the water supply.

   The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe is being represented by the environmental organization Earthjustice in a lawsuit filed against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on the premise that “the Corps violated the National Historic Preservation Act and other laws.”

   In a news release, Earthjustice stated the pipeline threatens the drinking water supply of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, and that “An oil spill at this site would constitute an existential threat to the tribe's culture and way of life.”

   Construction has been going on in some areas even in light of the lawsuits filed by some landowners and the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. The construction activity is a tad bit of arrogance because the final set of permits approved by the U.S. Corps of Engineers relate to crossing waterways.

   The use of eminent domain is probably the most arrogant of corporate zeal in the Bakken project. In a news release by Climate Progress, Dakota Access, a subsidiary of Dallas-based Energy Transfer Partners, claimed they were eligible for using the eminent domain powers to condemn the land of private landowners because of the benefits the pipeline will provide.

   Eminent domain is a tool established in the early days of America for projects deemed “for the public good,” – roads when there none, public buildings when there were none, schools when there were none, hospitals when there were none, and was never intended to be used for corporate greed. Here are the benefits claimed by Dakota Access:

  • $3.8 billion project;
  • create nearly 12,000 jobs
  • millions in taxes
  • at least $195 million in easement payments to landowners
  • less oil by rail and rail traffic in general

   Readers should note that companies provide job figures grossly inflated as an appeasement tactic, never acknowledging the temporary nature of most of the jobs.

   Climate Progress countered the companies glowing justification – U.S. Pipelines spilled three times as much crude oil as trains over the period 2004 to 2012, according to a recent study by the International Energy Agency, but adding that pipeline incidents happened much less frequently than oil train accidents.

   The point of this column is to ask you the reader to recall all the hoopla heard by America over the last five years. Is it realistic that those reporting on the Keystone XL pipeline were totally unaware of the Bakken Pipeline to the point of it being so absent from the media coverage (print and on-line)? 

   At the risk of being a conspiracy instigator, this writer believes the answer is a resounding NO! It is indeed a sad statement on government in America (federal and state) to approve the Bakken while giving so much lip service to not approving the Keystone XL! It is also further support of President Obama missing the boat on his climate change policy which is another column for yet another day.

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