As Dakota Access Pipeline Fight Heats up Again Poll Says Nearly 70 Percent of North Dakotans Support Expansion

Anti-pipeline protesters use vehicles ans fire to block a highway during the 2016 demonstrations opposing the Dakota Access Pipeline Forum News Service Photo

On Wednesday next week, North Dakota’s Public Service Commission will be holding a public hearing at the Emmons County Courthouse in Linton to allow comment on a proposed expansion of the Dakota Access Pipeline.

Currently, the line has the capacity for about 500,000 barrels per day. The expansion would take that into the neighborhood of about 1.1 million barrels per day. To put that into perspective, according to the most recent numbers, oil production in the entire State of North Dakota was just over 1.4 million barrels per day in August, which was a record high.

The DAPL is a crucial piece of infrastructure for the State of North Dakota. It has taken something like 740 oil cars a day off the state’s rail lines, which is not only a safer situation but also good for the state’s economy as it clears rail bandwidth for agriculture shipments. The line has also made North Dakota’s oil industry more resilient to lower oil prices by reducing transport costs.

The DAPL is also credited with adding about a quarter-billion dollars in additional tax revenues to state and local coffers.

The construction of the DAPL was a big, big deal for North Dakota. An expansion is a similarly big deal, but it’s also a political hot potato. State officials are expecting an extensive turnout of anti-pipeline activists at the Emmons County hearing. One observer told me they’re trying to figure out how they’re going to find space in Linton to park all the buses and cars bringing people in.

The hearing is likely to make a lot of news, much like the violent 2016 protests against the pipeline’s construction did, so before the furor, we should take note of a poll showing solid majority support for the pipeline expansion among North Dakotans.

The survey, commissioned by the pro-DAPL GAIN Coalition, shows 68 percent of North Dakotans supporting the DAPL expansion. That includes 86 percent of Republicans, 65 percent of independents, and even a slight plurality (45 percent) of Democrats:

The survey was conducted on November 1 – 4 and included 600 adult North Dakotans. The survey’s sponsor is a pro-pipeline group, so that’s worth a grain of salt, but the results aren’t surprising. North Dakotans were pro-DAPL during the ugly 2016 protests, and I don’t sense that anything has changed since then.

You can read the full polling memo below. Other notable findings are a near-universal feeling among North Dakotans that the oil industry is important to the state (95 percent), as well as 77 percent who say that pipelines are a better way to transport oil than rail or truck.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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