According to an Associated Press report this evening, Canadian-based Enbridge has decided to delay a pipeline project of vital importance to North Dakota’s booming economy. The Sandpiper line will, when built, carry up to 225,000 barrels per day of Bakken crude oil from Tioga, North Dakota, through Minnesota to Superior, Wisconsin.
That’s just a bit less than a quarter of North Dakota’s present daily oil output, so the pipeline is a pretty big deal.
It was slated to be done in 2016, but now that’s been pushed back to 2017 with the company citing a more protracted regulatory process in Minnesota than expected. The approval process in Minnesota has been met with political opposition from Democrats, as well as protests from anti-fossil fuel environmentalists.
It’s worth noting that the North Dakota Public Service Commission has already signed off on the line.
What’s ironic is that just days ago Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton sent a letter to his North Dakota counterpart Jack Dalrymple in which he expressed concerns over oil train safety.
“The amount of Bakken crude oil being shipped through Minnesota has increased dramatically since 2009. Currently, hundreds of rail cars on about seven trains, which carry more than 23 million gallons of crude oil, pass through Minnesota every day,” Dayton wrote. “These train movements have significant impacts on almost 3.5 million of the state’s 5 million residents who live in communities along Bakken oil train routes. We are told that the volume of crude oil being shipped through Minnesota will continue to increase over the next decade.”
It’s understandable that Minnesotans are concerned about oil train safety. Explosive derailments in Casselton and Canada have made headlines and left everyone who watches the long trains of oil tanker cars going through their communities feeling a little spooked.
(Of course, ethanol has the same problem with derailing and exploding, but that hasn’t sparked the same political outcry since oil is evil in political circles while ethanol enjoys most favored status.)
But here’s the thing: If Minnesotans are worried about oil by rail shipments, why are they sandbagging approval for a major pipeline project that would reduce the amount of oil on rails? Not to mention having the additional benefit of freeing up more rail capacity for agriculture shippers?
Perhaps the biggest, most immediate impact Governor Dayton could have on oil by rail safety would be to put some pressure on his state’s Public Utilities Commission so that they get the Sandpiper project back on track.