Keystone XL

Shell's Falcon Pipeline Dogged by Issues with Drilling and Permit Uncertainty During Pandemic

Read time: 17 mins
Wolf Run Creek

Over the past few months, amid the COVID-19 pandemic and stay-at-home orders, Shell Pipeline Company has pressed onward with the construction of a 97-mile pipeline running through Ohio and western Pennsylvania. Shell plans to use the Falcon pipeline to supply its $6 billion plastics plant currently being built in Beaver County, Pennsylvania, with ethane, a raw material pulled from shale wells in the state and from neighboring Ohio.

A DeSmog investigation found that Falcon’s construction has struggled with drilling problems and has continued even while one key water-crossing for the pipeline lacked state or federal permits. During that same time, vast numbers of other businesses in both states — including the Shell plastics plant itself — were forced to slow or stop activities in efforts to combat the spread of the deadly coronavirus.

Big Oil Fears Keystone XL Ruling Means End of Easy Pipeline Permits

Read time: 8 mins
Keystone XL pipeline construction in Texas in 2012

On April 15, Judge Brian Morris nullified water-crossing permits in Montana that were granted for the Keystone XL, a major setback for the long-embattled tar sands oil pipeline. The ruling came just days after Keystone XL owner TC Energy, formerly known as TransCanada, obtained billions of dollars in subsidies from the Alberta government as global oil prices plummeted.

The oil and gas industry has taken notice. Seemingly just a ruling on Keystone XL — the subject of opposition by the climate movement for the past decade — the ruling could have far broader implications for the future of building water-crossing pipelines and utility lines.

Amid COVID-19 Pandemic, Some Pipeline Projects Push Forward While Others Falter Nationwide

Read time: 12 mins
pipeline in Permian Basin

Last Friday, the Iowa Utilities Board issued an order that would allow the Dakota Access pipeline (DAPL) to double the amount of oil that flows through the state from 550,000 barrels a day to 1.1 million barrels a day. The utilities board, which also announced it had waived a hearing on the matter, made its move over the objections of environmental organizations and other civic groups opposed to DAPL operator Energy Transfer’s expansion plans.

Iowa’s approval landed just two days after a federal judge in North Dakota found that the project must undergo a full environmental review in a March 25 order, throwing the pipeline’s legal status into question. U.S. District Judge James E. Boasberg, who issued that order, also asked attorneys involved in that dispute to submit briefs on whether DAPL should be shut down while the pipeline undergoes its environmental review.

The DAPL expansion, meanwhile, still needs approval from Illinois state regulators, and environmental groups have asked the Illinois Commerce Commission to hold off from making any decisions for the time being, citing not only Judge Boasberg’s ruling but also the turmoil in the global oil market and the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on oil demand.

Joni Ernst

Joni Ernst

Credentials

  • Bachelor's degree in psychology, Iowa State University. [1]
  • Master's degree in public administration, Columbus State University (formerly Columbus College). [1]

Background

Read time: 11 mins

Alberta’s Oil Production Cut Shows the Keystone XL Protest Worked

Read time: 5 mins
Bill McKibben speaking at a Stop the Keystone XL pipeline rally in 2011

By This article originally appeared on Climate Home News.

Even among those sympathetic to it, the climate movement’s success in persuading President Barack Obama to reject the Keystone XL pipeline in 2015 was widely regarded as a symbolic victory.

Stopping one pipeline was hardly going to stop climate change, after all. And even the more limited goal that activists had set — stopping the exploitation of Alberta’s highly polluting tar sands — was dismissed as unrealistic. The oil would simply find another way to the market, the argument went, leading New York Magazine’s Jonathan Chait, for example, to declare “The Keystone Fight is a Huge Environmentalist Mistake.” Well, perhaps not.

KXL Pipeline Developer Plans to Start Construction in 2019

Read time: 4 mins
Woman holding a protest sign against Keystone XL reading 'Stop the pipeline'

By Lorraine Chow, EcoWatch. Reposted with permission from EcoWatch.

Construction on the long-delayed Keystone XL (KXL) pipeline is planned for 2019, developer TransCanada said Monday.

“Keystone XL has undergone years of extensive environmental review by federal and state regulators,” TransCanada spokesman Matthew John told Omaha World-Herald. “All of these evaluations show that Keystone XL can be built safely and with minimal impact to the environment.”

Judge Orders Full Environmental Review of Keystone XL in Nebraska

Read time: 3 mins
Niobrara State Park Bridge in Nebraska

By Lorraine Chow, EcoWatch. Reposted with permission from EcoWatch.

TransCanada's long-gestating Keystone XL (KXL) tar sands pipeline was dealt another setback after a federal judge in Montana ruled Wednesday that the Trump State Department must conduct a robust environmental review of the alternative pipeline route through Nebraska.

U.S. District Court Judge Brian Morris sided with environmentalists, landowners, and tribal plaintiffs in their challenge to the Trump administration. Pipeline opponents argued that the State Department's approval of the KXL was based on an outdated Environmental Impact Statement from 2014 of the original route, and accused the administration of trying to short-cut the permitting process.

All the Battles Being Waged Against Fossil Fuel Infrastructure Are Following a Single Strategy

Read time: 6 mins
Virginia Delegate Chris Hurst, a Democrat, at a Mountain Valley pipeline protest before he took office.
By Luis Hestres, The University of Texas at San Antonio

The activists holding a growing number of protests against oil pipelines and other fossil fuel infrastructure projects from coast to coast are winning some courtroom victories.

For example, a federal appeals court recently struck down two key decisions allowing a natural gas pipeline to cut through Virginia’s Jefferson National Forest, just days before a three-judge panel nixed two permits for another pipeline intended to transport natural gas in Virginia because it would compromise efforts to protect endangered wildlife. At the same time, Oregon’s Supreme Court declined to revisit a lower court ruling that let Portland’s prohibition of big fossil fuel export projects stand.

Just like when activists refuse to leave their treetop perches to stop oil companies from axing an old-growth forest or when they lock their bodies to bulldozers to prevent the machine from making way for a new coal mine, these legal challenges are part of a coordinated strategy I have studied for years while researching the movement to slow down and address climate change.

Why the Koch Network Took Credit for Dakota Access, Keystone XL, and REINS Act

Read time: 6 mins
Koch brothers

A leaked memorandum published by The Intercept and Documented Investigations shows that a Koch Industries' donors network, known as the Seminar Network, has taken credit for Donald Trump approving the permits for both the Dakota Access and Keystone XL pipelines during the first months of his presidency. The memo also applauded efforts by the Koch network's Americans for Prosperity (AFP) chapter in Wisconsin to pass a deregulatory measure there known as the REINS Act. The Seminar Network, which meets secretly twice a year, is made up of donors who give at least $100,000 toward Koch-led political and philanthropic efforts.

Koch Industries has a business interest in both pipelines, though their approval has not been something its funded network has widely discussed. Quietly, though, Koch has advocated for the pair of pipelines in regulatory hearings in both Iowa for Dakota Access — as previously reported by DeSmog — as well as in Canada, as reported in 2012 by InsideClimate News.

Inside the Trump Admin's Fight to Keep the Keystone XL Approval Process Secret

Read time: 6 mins
Donald Trump signing presidential order to expedite the permit review of the Keystone XL pipeline

At a February 21 hearing, a U.S. District Court judge ruled that the Trump administration must either fork over documents showing how the U.S. Department of State reversed an earlier decision and ultimately came to approve the Keystone XL pipeline, or else provide a substantial legal reason for continuing to withhold them. The federal government has an order to deliver the goods, one way or the other, by March 21.

DeSmog has reviewed the court evidence from the environmental groups bringing the case, records which help illuminate their argument that the government is, in fact, withholding such documents. The judge will decide if those documents, legally, should be made public.

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