In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, oil and gas pipelines have hit headlines across the country — but unfortunately, not for the right reasons.
Earlier this year, U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia Judge James Boasberg ordered the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers must conduct additional environmental review — an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) — on the already operational Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL).
This comes after the corps completed an Environmental Assessment (EA) on the project before it was constructed and determined a “Finding of No Significant Impact” or “FONSI.”
The latest development, as of earlier this month, was a shocking ruling from Judge Boasberg calling for the pipeline to be emptied and shuttered until the Corps completes its 13-plus month EIS, ignoring DAPL’s safe and efficient operation for the past 3 years since it came into service.
Fortunately, the appeals court in Washington D.C. last week issued a temporary stay on Boasberg’s order, allowing the pipeline to continue transporting oil until the court makes a final decision on the appeal.
Judge Boasberg, an Obama-appointee, and the “Keep it in the Ground” activists he sided with in his decision refuse to acknowledge the facts about DAPL and energy infrastructure: pipelines remain the safest, most efficient, and environmentally conscious way of transporting our everyday energy resources.
Before DAPL, more than 800,000 barrels per day of Bakken crude were transported via train.
The pipeline’s construction eliminated the need for up to 700 rail cars a day, a win for safety and environmental conservation given the increased risk of transport by train. But ironically, these trains crossed the Standing Rock Sioux’s land for years without notice and over a river bridge close to a planned water intake facility for the tribe.
It is important to keep in mind that suspending DAPL operations while the EIS is conducted will not eliminate the demand for affordable energy resources in the Midwest or the need to safely transport them. Without DAPL, these resources will be transported by truck or train, putting the risk back on our roads and rails.
While the pipeline’s operator, Energy Transfer, has already begun the appeals process, there is no doubt the domestic energy market and the region’s economy, both already suffering from the ongoing pandemic, will be significantly impacted if DAPL shuts down.
DAPL has transported more than half a million barrels of crude oil per day throughout the Midwest for the past three years and carries about40 percent of the total production coming from the Bakken. Its safe operation enables North Dakota’s oil industry to support tens of thousands of family-sustaining jobs, and generates millions of dollars in tax revenue each year that benefits North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa and Illinois.
As noted, the ruling’s impact spans far beyond just the natural gas and oil industry. Laborers International Union of North America(LIUNA) expressed concern around what this ruling means for their members, suggesting it “second-guesses the rigorous permitting and approval process… [and] ignores the high standards and reputation for quality of the more than 8,000 skilled building trades men and women” who were involved in DAPL’s construction.
DAPL, built to the highest safety standard by skilled labor utilizing advanced construction technology, received all necessary permits from state and federal regulators. Judge Boasberg’s decision to shut DAPL down during the EIS review weakens the credibility of the hardworking unions of our nation and further threatens future investment in energy infrastructure.
North Dakota’s Governor Doug Burgum called the decision troubling and noted how it could have a lasting effect on the country’s ability to move forward with energy infrastructure projects.
Investors have now witnessed a serious case of judicial overreach, disregarding the extensive permitting process and career professionals at the Army Corps that ensure its integrity.
The ruling calls the reliability and operations of pipelines into question, posing a threat to the future of America’s energy industry that millions of consumers rely on each day for their energy needs.
As much as environmentalists hate to admit it, infrastructure projects like DAPL play an essential role in safely transporting and supporting the demand for crude oil while the country further develops renewable energy infrastructure.
Balancing an “all of the above” approach to American energy that includes traditional fuels like natural gas and oil, paired with continued investment in renewable sources like wind and solar, is the best way to strengthen our nation’s energy security, bolster environmental stewardship, and continue to supply the energy that fuels the American economy.
Judge Boasberg’s short-sighted decision to suspend operations of an integral part of our energy infrastructure network jeopardizes our economy and energy security and sets the energy sector back at a time when it is crucial to move forward.