Trump’s oil pipeline decisions praised, criticized in Montana – Great Falls Tribune, Jan. 26, 2017
By Karl Puckett
Two major oil pipeline projects, derailed in 2015 by President Barack Obama, are back on track, with President Donald Trump signing executive actions Tuesday to advance construction.
The decisions reviving the Keystone XL and Dakota Access oil pipelines prompted praise and criticism in Montana.
“After years of talk and political nonsense, I couldn’t be more thrilled that President Trump has heeded my call to move forward construction of this project,” U.S. Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont., a cosponsor of the original bill to approve construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, said in a statement.
Keystone XL Pipeleine is a 36-inch crude oil pipeline that would stretch 1,179 miles from Hardisty, Alberta to Steele City, Neb. and link up with existing pipelines to Gulf Coast refineries.
The 280-mile Montana portion of the project would extend across Phillips, Valley, McCone, Dawson and Fallon counties.
The pipeline would create about 800 jobs in Montana, help keep electricity prices affordable for families and generate more than $80 million in Montana property taxes, with $16 million distributed to Montana’s schools and university system, Daines said.
Northern Plains opposed
“The Northern Plains Resource Council believes the final environmental impact statement that was originally done showed that the Keystone XL pipeline fell far short of demonstrating that it would be in the national interest,” said Darrell Garoutte, a McCone County rancher who owns land in the pipeline’s path.
The pipeline is a threat to the environment and will violate the property rights of landowners in its path, said Garoutte, a member of Northern Plains, a conservation organization. Construction jobs, he added, are short-lived, while agricultural jobs are foundation of the state’s economy.
Keystone XL pipeline would carry oil from the oil sands of Alberta, which is bound for export, doing nothing for national security, Garoutte added.
The Montana Department of Environmental Quality approved a permit for the Montana portion of the project in 2012.
Trump’s actions don’t approve the pipelines.
The Keystone memorandum, for example, invites TransCanada “to promptly re-submit its application to the Department of State for a Presidential permit for the construction and operation of the Keystone XL Pipeline, a major pipeline for the importation of petroleum from Canada to the United States.”
“This is with regard to the construction of the keystone pipeline,” Trump said before signing the memorandum. “Something that’s been in dispute. And it’s subject to a renegotiation of terms by us. Were going to renegotiate some of the terms — if they like. We’ll see if we can get that pipeline built.”
In conjunction with the pipeline, TransCanada also has proposed an oil receipt facility near Baker that would transport crude oil from the Williston Basin producing region in North Dakota and Montana, to Cushing, Okla. and the U.S. Gulf Coast using facilities that make up part of the Keystone XL project.
“The business activity generated will be significant,” said Webb Brown, president of the Montana Chamber of Commerce. “In addition, the proposed on-ramp near Baker will provide access to markets that will definitely benefit Montana.”
TransCanada would become one of the state’s biggest property tax owners if the pipeline is built, the Chamber said.
Cary Hegreberg, executive director, Montana Contractors Association, applaud Trump “for his courage in doing the right thing.”
“The Keystone project will put hundreds of high-paid construction workers to work and will be a huge boost to our economy,” he said.
Keystone XL pipeline killed in 2015
Former President Barack Obama killed the proposed Keystone XL pipeline in late 2015, saying it would hurt American efforts to reach a global climate change deal.
Trump signed executive actions Tuesday to advance Keystone along with the Dakota Access Pipeline, 30-inch, 1,172-mile underground state of the art pipeline extending from the Bakken/Three Forks production area in North Dakota to Patoka, Illinois.
The Army Corps of Engineers decided last year to explore alternate routes for the Dakota Access pipeline after the Standing Rock Sioux tribe in North Dakota and its supporters, including many from Montana, said the pipeline threatened drinking water and Native American cultural sites.
Trump’s directive on that pipeline directs the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers “to review and approve in an expedited manner, to the extent permitted by law and as warranted, and with such conditions as are necessary or appropriate, requests for approvals to construct and operate the DAPL, including easements or rights-of-way to cross Federal areas.”
The Dakota Access pipeline, Trump said, is “subject to terms of conditions negotiated by us.”
The decision on the Dakota Access pipeline was especially disappointing considering support the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe received from tribes from not only across the United States but the world, said Mark Azure, president Montana’s Fort Belknap Indian Community, home of Gros Ventre and Assiniboine tribes.
“As an Indian, it was moving to see all of us gathered, all of these nations for one cause to support one of our own and again, in a stroke of a pen that was all for naught apparently,” said Azure, who traveled to North Dakota twice in support of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. Azure traveled to North Dakota twice to support the Standing Rock Sioux.
The Fort Belknap Tribal Council passed a resolution in support of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s opposition to the Dakota Access pipeline because of the threat Azure says it poses to water, the environmental and historical artifacts.
The tribes also passed a resolution in opposition to the Keystone project.
Energy Transfer Partners says the Dakota pipeline would be among the safest, most technologically advanced pipelines in the world.
TransCanada says the Keystone project would provide a safe, secure, reliable source of energy.