Earlier this week, Phillips 66 and Bridger Pipeline announced plans to move forward with a joint venture known as “Liberty Pipeline”. The project was first announced in November of last year. According to reports, the proposed $1.6 billion pipeline project will move about 350,000 barrels a day from western North Dakota to the nation’s largest storage terminal in Cushing, Oklahoma.
“The Liberty Pipeline is an important undertaking on the part of our company to ensure that oil from Wyoming, the Rockies and the Bakken can get to markets in the U.S. and around the world.”
While the route of this project has not been disclosed, we know at least four things about it from an Associated Press report:
- It will use both existing and new right of ways and corridors.
- It will start in Guernsey, Wyoming and end in Cushing, Oklahoma.
- It will cross the southwest corner of North Dakota.
- It will not cross any tribal lands.
That last piece of information may cause some to breathe a sigh of relief. After all, the Dakota Access Pipeline protests of 2016-2017 have not been forgotten. And it’s certainly not something the state and its landowners want to experience again.
In order to gain approval from the State of North Dakota for the portion of the Liberty Pipeline crossing our borders, Phillips 66 and Bridger Pipeline will have to make their case via application to the Public Service Commission (PSC). If history tells us anything, I’m guessing they won’t have any problem getting the thumbs up for the project.
Extreme environmentalists have nothing but disdain for oil pipelines like the Dakota Access and Liberty. In fact, it’s probably fair to say that they hate the oil industry altogether. To them, oil is a plague on the health of the planet— harmful to air, water, and all living things. The high probability that the PSC will approve of the Liberty Pipeline is what makes another application they just denied all the more interesting.
Today — just two days after the announcement that plans were moving forward for the Liberty Pipeline — The Forum’s John Hageman is reporting that the PSC has denied NextEra Energy, Inc. a siting permit for a 23,000 acre wind farm in Burke County near Powers Lake. What was the reason for the denial? According to the PSC, the project would have “adverse impacts” on wetlands and negatively impact the health and safety of wildlife in the area.
Apparently federal and state agencies had long been concerned with the project. One North Dakota Game & Fish Department official is reported to have said that NextEra Energy “could not have picked a worse spot in the state.” Again, according to Hageman:
“In a letter dated March 6, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service welcomed NextEra’s moves to reduce the project size and contract from a grassland-rich area but ultimately recommended against developing in the proposed area. It noted that a number of bald and golden eagles were observed in that location, which ‘encompasses a high concentration of significant, relatively rare, high quality breeding waterfowl habitat in North Dakota that also supports high numbers of other wildlife species.'”
It should be noted that it was a unanimous 3-0 decision to deny the permit. According to Public Service Commissioner Julie Fedorchak:
“I just firmly believe that this is the right decision based on the evidence of the case, that the company did not meet its burden of proof to show that this project has minimal impact.”
Let’s not forget that the PSC is experienced when it comes to these applications. In fact, according to this report just two months ago, North Dakota is in the Top Ten for wind energy capacity— producing about 26% of its energy from wind power. Yet, not one commissioner remembers ever denying a permit to an energy facility. How much of a role we think government should have in decisions like these is a discussion for another day.
There’s no doubt that fossil fuels reign supreme in North Dakota. And rightfully so— like it or not, they’re still a necessity to civilization. But who ever thought we’d see the day when NextEra Energy — the “World’s Largest Producer of Wind and Solar Energy” — would be denied a permit to build a wind farm for environmental reasons? Kind of ironic, don’t you think?
I can’t help but wonder where NextEra Energy will go from here?
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