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Letter: Sandpiper: ‘Not if we can help it’

On Jan. 7, the League of Women Voters (LWV) sponsored a presentation by individuals representing various interests regarding a new “Sandpiper” oil pipeline proposed by Enbridge to be laid across Hubbard County. There have been several letters in the Enterprise both for and against this pipeline.

According to a June 2013 Manhattan Institute for Policy Research report, 70 percent of U.S. petroleum is transported by pipeline. Almost 500,000 miles of interstate pipeline crisscross America, carrying crude oil, petroleum products, and natural gas. Tanker and barge traffic accounts for 23 percent of oil shipments. Trucking accounts for 4 percent of shipments, and rail for the remaining 3 percent. Although more incidents occur when transporting petroleum products by trucking and rail (and gain more media exposure due to the sometimes horrific property damage and loss of life), this does not take into account environmental damage caused by petroleum spills. The same Manhattan Institute report indicates that on average, pipeline “incidents” typically result in larger spills. From 2005-2009, petroleum spilled from pipelines in the US totaled 6,592,366 gallons, while spills from road and rail were 477,558 and 83,745 gallons respectively.

It is the environmental aspect of this pipeline that concerns me. My wife and I relocated to this area several years ago and were drawn to its natural beauty. I hunt on some of the thousands of acres of public forest and fish on many of the pristine lakes that dot this land that serves as the headwaters of the last remaining wilderness along the Mississippi river. The proposed route of this Sandpiper pipeline would cross eight state forests (including the Mississippi Headwaters SF), three wildlife management areas, 13 trout streams (including our own Straight River) as well as the North Country Trail on its way to Superior, Wis. This pipeline would carry 375,000 barrels of Bakken crude per day. Between 1992 and 2011, 2,516,625 million barrels of petroleum were spilled by pipelines in the U.S. Only 40 percent of this spilled oil was recovered. Enbridge is proposing to follow an existing pipeline corridor from Clearbrook south, skirting Park Rapids to the west, then turning east at Hubbard County’s southern border and proceeding through Cass, Crow Wing, Aitkin and finally, Carlton County. From an environmental standpoint, we risk polluting over 150+ NEW miles of undisturbed land and water. Hubbard County should not be swayed by the additional tax revenues that Enbridge would bring or some temporary jobs. I hope we cannot be “bought” that easily.

I am not convinced of the need for all this Bakken crude oil and we should all be concerned with the harm that this fracking is causing to the environment. Do they really have to keep increasing the number of pump heads in North Dakota? They are already fracking close to 1,000,000 barrels a day. Could we possibly leave some for our children? Once they lay that pipeline across our county, it will be there for a long time. It will corrode and it will eventually leak. That’s what we would leave for our children.

Back to those rail incidents. Soon, federal regulators will be issuing new safety guidelines for tank cars carrying flammable liquids after a series of frightening rail accidents in the past six months. It’s about time. Flammable and poisonous materials have been riding around our country in minimally reinforced cars for decades. Tank car manufacturers have built new cars with DOT111A higher standards since 2011, but the improvements have not caught up to the tens of thousands of older cars which were fine for transporting corn syrup and vegetable oil, but woefully inadequate for transporting flammable material. Instead of gouging the earth with yet another pipeline let’s slow down and buy us time to make the necessary improvements to our existing infrastructure.

At the LWV presentation, a Hubbard County resident asked who would be responsible for cleaning up a spill. The representative from Enbridge said that “Our company would take full responsibility. Enbridge has been around for 60 years and will be here for another 60 years.” To which someone behind me whispered, “not if we can help it.”

Jeff Mosner

Park Rapids