Enbridge’s Sandpiper Blues

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On Tuesday, Enbridge Energy announced that the Sandpiper pipeline project will be delayed for at least a year due to permitting problems in Minnesota. The start of construction was to be in 2015, with the pipeline becoming operational in early 2016.

Minnesota regulators have requested a more extensive study of the environmental impacts of six possible routes for the pipeline that have been offered by opponents of Enbridge’s proposed route, which crosses many rivers, streams and wetlands. Enbridge for their part says the alternate routes are longer and more expensive. Furthermore, most don’t terminate in Superior, Wisconsin; the proposed ending spot of the pipeline and a major hub for pipeline distribution.

Needless to say, some were unhappy with the announcement. Calling the pipeline “a very important project” for his state’s oil production, Justin Kringstad, director of the North Dakota Pipeline Authority, said;  “The pipeline will provide growing volumes of crude oil a safe and reliable method of transportation to markets around the United States.”

In some ways, Kringstad almost has a point. The alternative method of transporting the oil is by rail, and we’ve seen how that’s been working for them. We’ve discussed exploding Bakken oil trains on a couple occasions; they in no way represent a safe way of transporting the extremely volatile crude coming out of the Bakken field. But – and this is a huge but – all pipelines leak. It’s not a matter of if; it’s a matter of when and how much.

Is either alternative worth the possible consequences? We say no. We’d like to see the time, ingenuity and effort the energy companies put into extracting fossil fuel resources being spent on renewable energy sources instead. To see those companies invest in such things as high speed rail instead of blocking such things because they want to sell more gas to individual people. To have them put the general welfare of the people and the planet above profit. To be responsible stewards instead of reprehensible ones.

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