US Chamber of Commerce Blog
With a few words to a reporter, President Barack Obama just took the rule of law, crumpled it up, and tossed along a riverbank in North Dakota.
Here’s what he told NowThis about the recent actions by his administration and the protests over the Dakota Access Pipeline:
I think, right now the Army Corps is examining whether there are ways to reroute this pipeline. So we are going to let it play out for several more weeks and determine whether or not this can be resolved.
This was “resolved” months ago, after state and federal agencies signed off on the project.
— NowThis (@nowthisnews) November 2, 2016
The point of the rule of law is to protect rights by having a known, understandable, and certain process.
The pipeline’s builders, Energy Transfer Partners, did what they were supposed to do: They worked with state and federal regulators, applied for the appropriate permits, held local hearings with people concerned about the project—including Native American tribes—and spent years making adjustments to the pipeline’s route after hearing concerns—140 times in North Dakota alone(!) to preserve cultural sites and minimize environmental harm.
After following the rules, all state and federal permits were acquired (including from the Army Corps of Engineers). Energy Transfer Partners was awaiting a final easement from the Army Corp to go under the Missouri River, so building started.
Only then did anti-energy extremists rile up people to protest the pipeline by setting up camp near its construction, chaining themselves to equipment, and regularly confronting law enforcement, security guards, and construction workers.
We’re more than three-quarters through the game and President Obama thinks it’s ok to pull a Lucy and yank the football away from billions of dollars of investment and thousands of jobs by changing the rules of the game. We’re long past the point of no return for a project that went by the book.
For reaction to the president’s comments, here’s Rob Port, a North Dakota blogger who has been covering the story for months:
It’s worth keeping in mind that almost the entirety of this pipeline traverses private land. “In fact, DAPL needs almost no federal permitting of any kind because 99% of its route traverses private land,” Obama-appointed federal judge James Boasberg wrote in his September opinion rejecting arguments against the pipeline from the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.
It’s actually more than 99 percent. It’s like 99.8 percent. Just 0.2 percent of this pipeline is on federal land.
But Obama, apparently, thinks that 0.2 percent gives the federal government the authority to re-route the 99.8 percent of the pipeline on private property.
Pipeline supporters also weighed in.
“While a reroute sounds simple enough, it is in fact incredibly difficult, time intensive, costly and may actually be impossible,” said Craig Stevens, spokesman for the Midwest Alliance for Infrastructure Now. “It would require new easements, new environmental and cultural studies, and hundreds of millions in additional costs.”
Stevens added, it also puts future energy infrastructure projects as risk: “It would send the signal to other companies seeking to invest in the U.S. infrastructure that the country is closed for business. Because no company would invest the billions of dollars necessary to complete the already time-consuming and onerous regulatory process only to be subject to a re-review in the latter stages of construction and shut down.”
This is an important point. Over the next few years we’ll need all types of energy infrastructure. Renewable energy supporters should be worried at Obama’s words and actions. It’s not just about oil and natural gas infrastructure. Long-haul electrical transmission lines require similar permitting and public comment periods as pipelines. Often, they run into local objections.When federal agencies upend the results of a fair regulatory process, everyone suffers.
Under this Obama administration precedent, a transmission line supplying customers with electricity from solar or wind that made it through the permitting process could be “rerouted” by presidential decree.
Don’t expect reliable energy supplies in that kind of environment. It doesn’t matter how much energy abundance you have, if you can’t get it to where consumers can use it—which is exactly the point of the extremist protesters. “There's no reroute that doesn't involve the same risks to water and climate,” Sara Shor, 350.org’s Keep It in the Ground campaign manager is quoted by The Hill.
Back to the rule of law. A letter from 22 pro-energy groups last month to the administration, including the Institute for 21st Century Energy, cited John Adams who wrote the United States is a “government of laws, not of men.” The letter continues:
This North Dakota project has complied with the procedures laid out in law, engaged in more than two years of federal review and has received the necessary federal approvals.
The previous decisions now being “reconsidered” were properly considered and made through a fair and thorough process on which the company and others are entitled to rely. In our “nation of laws,” when an established legal process is complete, it is just that—complete.
When your agencies upend or modify the results of a full and fair regulatory process for an infrastructure project, these actions do not merely impact a single company. The industries that manufacture and develop the infrastructure, the labor that builds it, and the American consumers that depend on it all suffer.
The AFL-CIO also understands the importance of abiding by a fair and certain process:
We believe that community involvement in decisions about constructing and locating pipelines is important and necessary, particularly in sensitive situations like those involving places of significance to Native Americans. However, once these processes have been completed, it is fundamentally unfair to hold union members’ livelihoods and their families’ financial security hostage to endless delay.
Along with damaging the rule of the law, with his words, the president has emboldened extremists like Bill McKibben who reject all fossil fuels use and pour fire on an already volatile situation.
In North Dakota, cars have been burned, explosive projectiles have been launched, shots have been fired, and hundreds of people have been arrested. (92% arrested have been from out of state, according to the National Sheriff’s Association.) Along the pipeline’s route in Iowa, millions of dollars of construction equipment has been destroyed.
This is chaos, and it could continue for “several more weeks.”
The Dakota Access Pipeline has been unnecessarily politiziced. Unfortunately, the president's words and actions have only made things worse.
Europe has so many historical and cultural wonders that even the reddest of red-blooded Americans can find something European to be envious of. After all, it was Europeans who gave us Led Zeppelin, pizza, and beer and personally, I think it’s high time we consider adopting the siesta as a national policy.
But what we don’t need to migrate across the pond are European energy prices.
Europe grew to be a manufacturing juggernaut in the 20th century utilizing technical acumen as well as the energy resources it had available. But manufacturing consumes massive quantities of energy, and while the continent was blessed with several Wonders of the World, it was not bestowed the greatest of energy resources, forcing it to increasingly rely on imports. Additionally, over the last two decades, the European Union and many of its members have stumbled down an experimental path of making energy less accessible and more expensive. By making energy use more expensive, these policies have strained Europe’s once mighty manufacturing sector.
Meanwhile, the energy revolution in the U.S. over the last decade has brought us some of the lowest energy prices in the world, and a subsequent manufacturing renaissance. We’ve already witnessed tens of billions of dollars invested in U.S. manufacturing with more on the way. But --and this is a big but--, this isn’t a fate accompli. In fact, it has become vogue in certain extremist circles for politicians and the special interests that support them to champion EU energy policies and prices and wish them upon America.
The latest installment in our Energy Accountability Series asks the question, What If…The United States Was Forced to Pay EU Energy Prices? In the spirit of Halloween, our analysis found the answer to be positively ghoulish. Importing EU energy prices to America would cost our economy about $700 billion and almost 8 million jobs. From a consumer standpoint, every household would be shelling out $4,800 more per year.
Some states in particular would be hit hard. With its high level of fixed income residents, Florida would shed almost $30 billion from its economy. Other states blessed with robust manufacturing sectors would really be hobbled. Ohio would lose almost 190,000 jobs and Michigan about 160,000. Michigan would shed $12 billion from its economy, Illinois more than $17 billion and Ohio almost $15 billion. Our analysis found major contractions in industries ranging from poultry to paper to food manufacturing.
The bottom line is EU energy prices would be disastrous. So let’s keep importing the scrumptious chocolate—but leave the bad policy across the Atlantic.ei_eu_energy_prices_states_900px.jpg What if the U.S. was forced to pay European Union energy prices? States pay the price.Source: Institute for 21st Century Energy.
Note: This originally appeared on the Institute for 21st Century Energy's blog.
Inspired by aggressive (and sometimes violent) protests in North Dakota over construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline, anti-energy, “Keep it in the ground” radicals launched a coordinated attack on five oil pipelines:
Activists in four states were arrested after they cut padlocks and chains and entered remote flow stations to turn off valves in an attempt to stop crude moving through lines that carry as much as 15 percent of daily U.S. oil consumption. The group posted videos online showing the early morning raids.
Protest group Climate Direct Action said the move was in support of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, which has protested the construction of a separate $3.7 billion pipeline carrying oil from North Dakota to the U.S. Gulf Coast over fears of potential damage to sacred land and water supplies.
It’s bad enough to oppose using oil and natural gas to power our economy, but cutting through fences, trampling on private property, and putting workers and citizens in danger is unacceptable.
What's more, tampering with high-pressure oil pipelines could damage the environment saboteurs claim they want to protect:
Several pipeline operators and safety experts said shutting off valves was extremely dangerous and that activists underestimated the risks.
Pipelines can be heavily pressurized depending on length and altitude variation, and shutting off a valve could cause ruptures that are "catastrophic" for the environment, Paul Tullis of Tullis Engineering Consultants said.
"It's like a freight train," he said of the momentum with which the oil moves. "If these people are hydraulic engineers, they might be able to do this safely."
Activists often do not fully know what they are doing, even if they think they do, Tullis said.
Protesters said they spent months studying how to safely shut the valves. The ability for them to access the proprietary information necessary to shut a line safely was questioned by experts.
Either way, pipeline specialists said it was lucky there were no leaks on Tuesday. Once the valves are shut, pressure can quickly build up inside pipelines that operate under as much as 1,000 pounds (450 kg) per square inch.
Protesters were taking a chance that a weak spot in a line would not explode, and that employees in operations hubs would spring into action after hearing alarms.
These attacks look similar to an attack on a Canadian oil pipeline in December 2015. To get a sense of how dangerous this was, here’s a portion of the eyewitness account of that attack [emphasis mine]:
6:45 a.m. Jean Leger calls Enbridge emergency number and tells them that he is closing the valve. This is filmed by a co-conspirator journalist. The whole valve and the ground starts vibrating. To avoid a potential explosion, the valve is opened slightly. The ground continues to vibrate, and sound of pressurized flow is audible.
Approx. 9:00 – Activists unlock and the valve is firmly closed. The vibration reaches a fever pitch, but once the valve is wrenched as far as humanly possible to the right, the vibration stops altogether. Activists lock back onto the valve.
At one point when law enforcement was “attempting to handcuff one of the activists locked to the valve, another valve that is part of the infrastructure sprays oils all over the place.”
Note the irony of an oil spill caused by people violently opposed to oil. This is what happens when people reading stuff on the internet think they can safely shut off a pipeline.
At this rate, someone will get hurt.
"On the wrong pipeline, in the wrong place (actions like this) could kill people,” pipeline expert, Richard Kuprewicz, cautioned Reuters.
What's more, these attacks (under the guise of protests) ignores the importance of pipelines and other pieces of energy infrastructure to a modern economy. We need to be able to move energy from where it’s produced to where families and businesses use it, as Matt Koch of the U.S. Chamber's Institute for 21st Century Energy explains:
Many areas in the U.S. are already missing out on the full benefits of our energy revolution because it has been difficult to move our energy from where it is produced to where it is needed.
The fierce resistance and abuse of the regulatory processes by those who want to “keep it in the ground” is incredibly shortsighted.
However, environmentalists continue to battle pipeline and transmission line construction, recently claiming victory as projects that would bring gas from Pennsylvania to the northeast (Constitution Pipeline; Northeast Energy Direct Pipeline) were abandoned after fierce opposition from environmentalists and long regulatory delays. Now, protests have become violent while trying to delay construction of the important Dakota Access oil pipeline project. Of course, there is also the infamous denial of Keystone XL by the Obama Administration.
America is blessed with tremendous supplies of all forms of energy, the ingenuity and ability to develop technology to utilize it more cleanly and efficiently, and the means to transport it safely and with little risk as possible. Still, if pipelines and transmission lines can’t get built to move energy supplies to where they are needed, disparities will continue to grow between regions - and all the benefits to consumers, communities, and our economy will be lost.
I'd add that without the ability to effectively transport energy, our economy will grind to a halt—which is what some of extremists want.
Just like the Dakota Access Pipeline protestors, the “Keep it in the ground” folks who took part in these attacks have shown that it's not about peaceful, reasonable debate or adequate public consultation; it’s about dictating the energy policy changes they demand by any means necessary.
Does America need an "All of the Above" energy strategy? Find out here. This Chamber Explainer will get you up to speed.