North America Pipelines News
EDITORIAL: N.D. Should React, Not Overreact, to Pipeline
by Grand Forks Herald, N.D.
July 26, 2007
The risk of a leak does not justify barring a vital pipeline from crossing N.D.
The critics are right: The Keystone Pipeline's route deserves careful scrutiny. Among other concerns, North Dakota regulators should make sure the crude-oil pipeline skirts environmentally sensitive areas.
But the critics are wrong to suggest the pipeline shouldn't cross North Dakota at all. In fact, that argument weakens their case, because it's nothing more than a roundabout way of stopping the pipeline from entering the United States, period.
The pipeline's comparatively small risks compared to its tremendous national and significant state benefits don't justify that extreme response.
The Keystone Pipeline would carry crude oil 1,845 miles from oil fields in Alberta to refineries in Illinois. About 218 miles of the 30-inch-wide pipeline would be buried across Cavalier, Pembina, Walsh and other counties in eastern North Dakota.
The route takes the oil too close to the Fordville aquifer, critics said Tuesday at a public hearing in Park River, N.D. The route also might threaten a portion of the scenic Pembina Gorge as well as the Sheyenne River, others have declared.
Without question, the Public Service Commission should study those concerns. No route will be perfect or provide "zero impact," but commissioners should insist on a route that minimizes threats to the state's environmental, fresh water and other vital amenities.
But this question was asked at the hearing, too: "How is this pipeline to benefit North Dakota?" Some landowners are "working with the Dakota Resource Council, based in Dickinson, N.D., in opposing the pipeline," Herald staff writer Kevin Bonham reported ("Opponents ask: Why build it here?", Page 2C, July 25).
"Together, they contend the pipeline is not a public necessity since, as proposed, it would not carry North Dakota crude oil to refineries and that there are no benefits, economic or otherwise, to North Dakotans."
That argument is wildly overstated.
Of course the state will benefit. In the short term, it will benefit through the money paid to landowners, salaries paid to local construction workers and food and lodging bought by out-of-state construction crews.
In the long term, the communities along the route will benefit from the property taxes that TransCanada, the pipeline's owner, will pay.
Then there is this statewide benefit:
"Pipeline bottlenecks currently exist on the oil pipeline infrastructure in North Dakota. . . . This situation has created market conditions that have resulted in depressed prices for western North Dakota crude oil.
"The TransCanada Keystone Pipeline could play a role in resolving this problem by providing another transportation route for moving crude oil to the refineries in the United States."
The comments come from a letter by the state Industrial Commission. The letter closes by giving the pipeline the commission's strong support.
The letter is signed by all three commissioners -- namely, the governor, attorney general and agriculture commissioner of North Dakota.
Last but not least, North Dakota and the other 49 states will benefit from the improved access to Canada's oil-sands deposits in northern Alberta.
That access is crucial for price-of-gas, national security and many other reasons. As the Alberta government declares, "Canada ranks second largest in terms of global proven crude oil reserves (15 percent of world reserves), after Saudi Arabia.
"The majority of these reserves are found in Alberta's oil sands."
If North Dakota blocks that oil from "crossing" our state, then other border states presumably would do the same. And if that happens, how exactly is the oil supposed to get from Alberta to Illinois?
Pipelines "generally have a better safety record (deaths, injuries, fires/explosions) than other modes of oil transportation," the U.S. Office of Pipeline Safety reports.
"For example, compared to the pipeline record, there are 87 times more oil transport truck-related deaths, 35 times more oil transport truck related fires/explosions and twice as many oil transport truck-related injuries."
North Dakota already counts 2,124 miles of pipelines carrying hazardous liquids, including more than 1,000 miles of pipeline carrying crude oil, according to the U.S. Office of Pipeline Safety.
The state shouldn't react to the Keystone proposal in a hysterical, Keystone Kops way.
- Tom Dennis for the Herald
Copyright (c) 2007, Grand Forks Herald, N.D. Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.
TransCanada (developer and operator); ConocoPhillips
Hardisty, Alberta to Cushing, Okla. and Patoka, Ill. United States