Environmental groups are looking for options to minimize the risk of oil pipeline failures in the wake of the Trump administration’s greenlighting of the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines in its first week in office.
President Barack Obama had rejected Keystone XL and put completion of the Dakota Access pipeline on hold pending additional environmental review. President Trump reversed those decisions with issuance of an Executive Order. That means groups are facing a headwind from the federal government in their efforts to minimize environmental risk from pipeline failure.
Reaction from environmental groups was swift.
“Big oil is back” says Liz Kirkwood, executive director of FLOW (For Love of Water) the Traverse City grassroots environmental group.
FLOW is primarily concerned about the Enbridge Line 5 pipeline that runs under the Straits of Mackinac. The pipeline receives increased scrutiny because of its age, and also because Enbridge was responsible for the pipeline breach in 2010 that released a million gallons of oil into the Kalamazoo River.
“Most likely… the federal nod to pipeline expansion and commitment to the fossil fuel industry will delay any alternative favoring the decommissioning of Line 5 through 2020, says Kirkwood.
The National Wildlife Federation, in a press release expressed a concern that “there other regional projects that could proceed without proper environmental or community considerations” following Trump’s action.
The federation has a lawsuit pending against the federal agency responsible for pipeline safety. The suit alleges that the agency’s review of Line 5 is not in compliance with federal law governing pipelines.
Enbridge has consistently said Line 5 is safe and on its website says “its design and construction exceeds today’s most rigorous safety standards.”
Long- time Great Lakes expert Dave Dempsey says “we have to take the long view.”
“The pipeline has been there for over 60 years and will probably not be shut down for several more. By digging in on the legal and policy front, environmental groups are doing the right thing.”
Dempsey until recently worked as a policy adviser for the International Joint Commission, the agency that advises the U.S. and Canadian governments on Great Lakes issues.
FLOW’s Kirkwood said “citizens will need to fight back in the courts and Congress” but acknowledged that neither is a panacea in politically uncertain times.
For more information about FLOW, go to flowforwater.org