Keystone strategy comes to Bakken opposition

Prominent voice against Keystone XL takes on Dakota Access

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Bloomberg

One of the most prominent voices among opponents of Keystone XL is now taking on the battle against the Dakota Access pipeline, which has faced hurdles in North Dakota and Iowa.

After organizing grass roots efforts against TransCanada Corp.’s Keystone XL through Bold Nebraska, an activist group, Jane Fleming Kleeb has turned her attention to Energy Transfer Partners LP’s project — the Bakken pipeline being developed by Dakota Access.

Bold Nebraska has evolved into Bold Alliance, a group led by Kleeb to focus on corporations “threatening land and water,” she said in a phone interview.

The group is reprising tactics used in the Keystone battle — including organizing events in support of protests and contacting politicians.

Work on the $3.78 billion project is currently stalled at one point in North Dakota after the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe sought an injunction, arguing that the project will damage sites of historic and cultural significance to the tribe. A judge is expected to rule by Sept. 9.

The pipeline also hit a temporary snag in Iowa, where landowners argued the project didn’t meet the criteria for eminent domain and unsuccessfully requested the Iowa Utilities Board to issue a stay.

“It’s easy to forget that tribal nations and farmers and ranchers have very long histories together,” Kleeb said.

While opposition to Dakota Access has similar themes and tactics to Keystone, the movement hasn’t reached the same intensity, she said.

In an event organized by Bold Iowa, 30 protesters were arrested Wednesday in Iowa on trespassing charges, according to the Boone County Sheriff’s Office. They were trying to stop construction and get the attention of President Barack Obama, Kleeb said.

Eight people were arrested the dame day in North Dakota, according to the Morton County Sheriff’s Department.

The 1,172-mile pipeline would run from North Dakota to Patoka, Ill., where it would join another Energy Transfer line running to Nederland, Texas.

The line, which can carry 470,000 barrels a day, is projected to be in service in the fourth quarter. It gives North Dakota drillers, who have relied in part on pricier rail shipments, access to U.S. Gulf Coast and Midwest markets.

The protests thus far are unlikely to have meaningful impact on the timeline of construction, said Ethan Bellamy, an analyst at Robert W. Baird & Co. in Denver.

The worst-case scenario “would be getting a pipeline that is 99.9 percent complete, only to have the all important last 1,000 meters stopped because of a legal fight,” he said.

Though Dakota Access would reduce transport costs for drillers, any delay in its completion is likely to have a bigger effect on midstream operators, Bellamy said.

The number of drilling rigs in North Dakota’s Bakken field has fallen, and is unlikely to return until crude prices improve. So supply for the pipeline, which could ship almost half of Bakken production, will probably fall as it’s coming online, he said.

Energy Transfer has said the project will create 8,000 to 12,000 jobs during construction and generate about $55 million annually in property taxes for North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa and Illinois.

The project is about exports, not jobs or energy independence, Kleeb maintained. But not using Bakken crude means importing it from elsewhere, Bellamy said.

“Unless those protesters drove electric cars to the construction site, or those celebrities rode horses from Hollywood to North Dakota, I’d ask them how else they’d like to move goods, services and people around the world,” Bellamy said.

Vicki Granado, a spokeswoman for Dakota Access, didn’t respond to an email and phone call requesting comment.

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