Sandpiper community briefing

The Sandpiper, Trains, Bakken Oil, and All of Us

“It’s like the choice of driving the car with bad brakes, or driving the car with bad steering.” Let’s just not drive the car.

That’s the choice we’re being asked to make when we choose between moving oil from the Bakken oil field by train or by pipeline. Our options are not good. We might need to ask a few questions. Like, what happens to my property values with an oil pipeline, how much oil is coming this way, if we agree to this pipeline, will the oil industry try and create a second industrial corridor of pipelines through the Park Rapids, Crow Wing, area? We might need to say no to this pipeline. NO IS AN OPTION, AND IT IS OUR RIGHT.

There’s not that much oil in the Bakken, and what’s there is dangerous. Consider that there’s about 2.65 billion barrels of oil in the Bakken. There are possibly 3.73 billion barrels of oil in the Three Forks, which underlays the Bakken – if we can get that out. Now, consider the US consumed 6.8 billion barrels of oil in 2012. In other words, the Bakken represents half a year of US oil. A lot of fuss over not much oil.

Bakken oil may be American made, but it’s dangerous and dirty:

  • People’s drinking water is catching on fire: There’s a (now viral) youtube video a man lighting his tap water on fire in the Bakken fields. That’s just the tip of the contamination.
  • Groundwater is getting contaminated: There are over 600 chemicals being injected into the Earth, as a part of the process of fracking. Those chemicals are unregulated and undisclosed. In some states people’s water is contaminated, and there is no new water being made. Then there is the problem of radioactive wastes: “There are 75 tons of radioactive and toxic drilling waste being generated daily in the western part of the state. Rules and regulations require radioactive waste above 5 picocuries be sent to an approved dump site out-of-state. That’s not happening. Bags used to screen radioactive waste are found daily in ditches and, even at the entrance to the Theodore Roosevelt National Park. Piles of radioactive waste are also found along section lines, in fields and eventually it all goes into the water you drink and the food you eat.” It’s a mess out there.
  • Pipelines are leaking: In September of 2013, 800,000 plus gallons spilled into a Tioga Farm Field, just slightly less than the Enbridge Kalamazoo Spill of 2010. North Dakota has recorded 139 pipeline leaks that spilled a total of 735 barrels of oil.

    "The public really should know about these," Morrison with the landowner group said. "If there is a spill, sometimes a landowner may not even know about it. And if they do, people think it's an isolated incident that's only happening to them.
  • Train cars are exploding: The recent Casselton train derailment illustrated how greed overcomes safety, and how volatile Bakken oil is. Bakken Light crude is “hydrogen-heavy and carbon-light,” which enables it to flow easily, but also makes it “alarmingly explosive”.
  • Pipelines spill more often than rail: over the past decade, pipelines have spilled 474,441 barrels of oil, compared to the 2,268 barrels spilled over the same time by rail. Pipeline spills also tend to be larger than rail.
  • Pipelines Explode: Those pipeline spills can also explode. Such is the case with the Olympic Pipeline tragedy in Whatcom Creek, near Bellingham Washington. It was a l6-inch gas pipeline from a refinery to Portland, when a pressure release valve failed, the surge caused the rupture, and 277,200 gallons of gas escaped, three people were killed and the city of Bellingham almost destroyed. More will come, if more Bakken oil is on the line.
  • The Safety Mechanisms are not Fail Proof: There are a scant l28 inspectors for the federal Pipeline Safety and Hazardous Materials Administration, watching over 2.5 million miles of pipeline. Enbridge’s operations headquarters for the proposed Sandpiper is in Estevan Saskatchewan. That’s a long ways from Hubbard, Clearwater or Aitken Counties.

    The Bakken for the Future? That’s just the beginning. And it’s going to be a short, very destructive boom. It won’t be a cycle, because North Dakota will never be the same again, nor will we, here if we allow it all to go on. More pipelines may be proposed to cross our lakes and rivers, if this pipeline is allowed and permitted. What can we do?
  • Slow down. Maybe we need to see what’s going on in the Bakken before we make a big mess. That’s what a lot of landowners are saying in western North Dakota.
  • protectourland.png
    To see a video about our spiritual ride to protect our land and community from the pipelines, follow the link in the resources section.
    Where will we get our oil from? There’s plenty of western hemisphere oil – it just happens to be in Venezuela, a country from which we’ve imported billions of barrels of oil – until recently. We’ve cut those imports by 30%, largely for political reasons, and some for economic reasons. Venezuela has the largest oil reserves in the world, and that is at 296.5 billion barrels of oil. That is well above a hundred times more oil than the Bakken. And, there is already infrastructure – the oil is easily extracted, and this does not include any tar sands or oil sands practices. There are tankers, refineries, and pipelines. The US has historically not liked Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez, but he has passed away.

    We need to rethink our oil strategy. Stick with the oil which is easy to get, already has tankers and refineries (the
    Gulf Coast), and make nice. And, maybe we conserve, and put in more renewable energy and railcars, which carry people not oil and coal.
  • Are Pipelines Inevitable? No. Oil can move by railcar just fine, although safety needs to be upgraded significantly – including the introduction of a fleet-wide set of new tanker cars, which are sturdier. Enbridge’s certificate of need for the Sandpiper line is at the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC). There is no urgent need for this pipeline, and we need to deliver this message to the PUC.
  • Public Policies: We need to enact some thoughtful policies. The precautionary principle, or precautionary approach, states that if an action or policy has a suspected risk of causing harm to the public or to the environment, in the absence of scientific consensus that the action or policy is harmful, the burden of proof that it is not harmful falls on those taking an action.
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