Arguments For and Against Pipelines

1935 words (8 pages) Essay in Environmental Studies

08/02/20 Environmental Studies Reference this

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Why are people against pipelines?

 Energy policy has always been a contentious topic in the United States. Many individuals just pick a side because of how their party chooses rather than gathering all the facts. Since individuals create an opinion before acquiring all the evidence, the evidence they do collect tends to be skewed towards supporting their opinion. Political opinions tend to be formed on people’s underlying beliefs and attitudes, not their basis of information.

 Opponents of hydraulic fracturing of shale have focused on unreliable reports, “research” that shows a weak correlation between fracking and certain health problems, and a biased view of the state of knowledge. The ignorance demonstrated by bystanders should disqualify them from providing inputs to policy decisions. One protestor said, “we plan to use Keystone as a launching point to change a lot of hearts and minds and to fight multiple other projects at once.” There are land use issues, as some residents object to having pipelines cross their lands, and social justice issues. But it is mainly the idea that the transport of oil and gas by pipeline will harm the environment either locally or by increasing greenhouse gas emissions.

Pipelines are the most efficient way to transport natural gas and are more effective than rail transport. Not building a pipeline will have little or no impact on either the production or consumption of fossil fuels. The consumption of fossil fuels it what protestors should be focused on. People suddenly notice that there is industrial activity going on and oppose it.

There are several pipelines being built and developed across the country every day. Each pipeline has its own set of opponents and proponents. Below I gage the opponents for each pipeline to try to grasp a better understanding on what is driving individuals to be opposed to pipelines when there is so much information about the benefits of natural gas pipelines.

Why to oppose the Keystone Pipeline?

One opposing article called the Keystone Pipeline, “A project that looks more like a pathway to pollution than a gateway to our gas pumps.” Opponents believe that the pipeline is a threat to public health and that it would accelerate the climate crisis. One claim supporting the pipeline is regarding the amount of jobs it would create. However, it looks like there would be about 35 post construction jobs. Opponents believes that infrastructure repair and promoting a green economy would be a better solution.

There is a fear that toxic contaminants that are used for extraction would infect clean water supplies. Opponents tried to connect this argument with nearby towns as there has been an increase in cancer deaths, renal failure, lupus, and hyperthyroidism. In the past, huge pipeline spills have led to respiratory ailments and other health issues. There is the argument that pollutants from tar sands refineries are linked to heart and lung disease, asthma, and cancer. There is a belief that the air has been contaminated by the pipeline.

Opponents argue that Keystone will multiply carbon emissions and speed up climate change resulting in more polluted air and higher air temperatures (which can also increase bacteria-related food poisoning). There has also been an increase in storms which is blamed on climate change. Keystone would generate the carbon emission equivalent of 40 million more cars or 50 coal-fired power plants every year. Opponents are also frustrated that Keystone would contribute little to US energy independence as the oil is being shipped overseas.

Mountain Valley Pipeline

 The biggest reason for individuals to oppose the MVP is because of the Not-In-My-Backyard mentality. The pipeline would go through historical landmarks, nature reserves and habitats. Its path location threatens schools, homes, and endangers the safety of entire residential communities. A new path was proposed, but it increased the number of landowners and communities threatened by the project.

People are arguing that the pipeline could destroy the local ecosystem. If any criticism is warranted, it should be directed at the regulatory groups and not pipelines in general. Pipeline companies can use eminent domain to seize their property. One of the biggest issues has to do with the agencies entrusted with monitoring it. Pipelines are broadly regulated by the Department of Energy, which is currently being run by an individual who has a history opposing the agency.

The FERC grants licenses to energy companies to construct pipelines, but was recently hacked by a group of Iranians working on behalf of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. There are protests by environmental activists and residents. MVP was temporarily halted, according to the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, to “ensure that proper soil erosion and sentiment controls are implemented.” Opponents are defending against human rights abuses from the frack fields as they threaten land and lives.

Dakota Access Pipeline

The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe opposes the pipeline because the route crosses sacred sites and burial places. There are concerns over the pipeline rupturing and polluting local drinking water. It is about their rights of native people to this land, mainly their “rights about calling a place home and over water rights.”

The Obama Administration asked Energy Transfer Partners to voluntarily stop construction within 20 miles of federally protected land. The tribe believes that the Army Corps of Engineers should have done a better job of consulting with the tribe before construction was approved because now the Corps must go back and determine if they should reconsider the conclusion the agency made that led to the approval of the pipeline.

While this is only a temporary halt, the tribe is looking for a permanent win. Supporters of the pipeline were frustrated with Obama’s decision and felt like it disrupted infrastructure development in the US. Shipping crude oil by pipeline is almost always safer than shipping it by train. There are three main reasons why individuals oppose the Dakota Access Pipeline.

First, the pipeline threatens the water supply of the Standing Rock Sioux and millions of people downstream. If there were to be a pipeline break it could poison the city’s water source. Infecting the water of the Standing Rock Tribe and the millions of people who live downstream. The pipeline was fast-tracked through Nationwide Permit No. 12 which exempted it from environmental reviews that are required by the Clear Water Act.

Second, the pipeline is being built on sacred land guaranteed to the Oceti Sakowin (Sioux) by treaty. The land the pipeline is being built on is sovereign territory of the Sioux nation by the 1851 Treaty of Fort Laramie. The tribe should have been consulted before the pipeline was approved. The Army Corps of Engineers said that “additional discussion and analysis are warranted in light of the history of the Great Sioux Nation’s dispossessions of lands.” Contractors of the pipeline are ignoring “pending legal action taken by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and the other Oceti Sakowin tribes,” “treaty law,” and the Native American Graves Protection and Reparation Act. Construction has already damaged sacred burial sites and other culturally significant areas.

Lastly, the pipeline will worsen climate change because it is pumping hundreds of thousands of gallons of shale oil to market daily. It would release 101.4 million metric tons of CO2 each year which is the equivalent of emission from 29.5 coal plants or 21.4 million cars. A study indicated that the global rise in greenhouse gases can be traced to hydraulic fracking in the North Dakota Bakken shale oil fields.

Mariner East Pipeline

The Mariner East Pipeline would carry explosive chemicals dangerously close to people’s homes. The pipeline punctured a nearby aquifer which drained the wells of nearby homes. Energy Transfer Partners, which is the parent company of Sunoco and is also building the Dakota Access Pipeline, have a poor safety record as their pipelines tend to experience leaks or accident every 11 days on average.

In Pennsylvania there is no agency in charge of pipeline regulations, especially those carrying hazardous waste. ETP has instructed those that live nearby that if there is a leak to flee on foot and stay upwind, but no information has been provided telling residents if they live in a safe area. Ringing a doorbell, making a phone call, opening a garage door, turning lights on, or running an engine could ignite a fatal explosion.

ETP has claimed that they have reduced their rate of accidents by 30% and it is now aligned with the rest of the industry. If drilling mud leaked into the aquifer it would increase calcium levels in the water. Calcium isn’t harmful in water but for one mom, Danielle Friel Otten, it was a health risk for her son who has a disorder that makes it difficult for him to process calcium. Otten collected money to conduct a risk analysis of the pipeline and they found that the pipeline had a risk of 1 in 81,000 of killing a school full of children or everyone at the Chester County Library.

Rover Pipeline

Energy Transfer Partners – in charge of the Dakota Access Pipeline and the Mariner East Pipeline – have received 13 violations from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency since the project began construction. Pollutants from the pipeline were unlawfully discharged into an unnamed river that flows into a larger lake. The spill happened after federal regulators gave permission for the construction to resume horizontal drilling, which is a method for installing pipelines under bodies of water.

Two million gallons of drilling mud which was contaminated by diesel fuel spilled into Ohio wetlands twice which prompted a four month stop on drilling. Ohio EPA directed ETP to pay $2.3 million dollars in civil fines and damages, but ETP does not believe they are responsible for those fines and predicts it will be done with the project by the end of the year. Construction was able to resume because the FERC gave ETP permission.

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