Gazette opinion: TransCanada pipeline permit should be issued soon

2013-03-18T00:00:00Z Gazette opinion: TransCanada pipeline permit should be issued soon The Billings Gazette
March 18, 2013 12:00 am

As the bureaucratic permitting process grinds on, the latest environmental impact statement confirms there’s no substantial environmental or safety reason to stop the Keystone XL pipeline.

Environmental impacts can be mitigated, according to the State Department supplemental EIS released on March 1.

“Approval or denial of any one crude oil transport project, including the proposed project, remains unlikely to significantly impact the rate of extraction in the oil sands or the continued demand for heavy crude oil at refineries in the U.S.,” the report says.

TransCanada has agreed to incorporate 57 special conditions developed by Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration into the proposed project and its operations, maintenance and emergencies manual. These measures include reducing spill risk by taking precautions against pipeline corrosion, stress cracking and operator error.

The proposed 36-inch-pipeline would transport up to 830,000 barrels per day of oil from Alberta and the Bakken area of North Dakota and Montana to refineries on the Texas coast. The State Department permit covers only the route from the Port of Morgan, Mont., to Steel City, Neb.

The on ramp that Montana required as a condition of state approval makes the pipeline more important to our state.

The State Department summarized that part of the project: “Keystone MarketLink, LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of TransCanada Pipelines Limited, would construct and operate the Bakken MarketLink Project. This project would include a 5-mile pipeline, pumps, meters, and storage tanks to supply Bakken crude oil to the proposed pipeline from the proposed Bakken MarketLink pipeline system in North Dakota and Montana. Three crude oil storage tanks would be built near Baker, Mont., as part of this project. This proposed project can deliver up to 100,000 bpd (barrels per day) of crude oil, and has commitments for approximately 65,000 bpd.”

The 875-mile-long Morgan to Steel City project would cost $3.3 billion and, if permitted, could be in operation in 2015. (The Nebraska reroute may delay pipeline completion, according to recent news reports. In February, a few weeks after the Nebraska governor approved the new route through his state, the Nebraska Public Power District said electrical transmission lines to serve the pipeline must be redesigned and won’t be ready by 2015.)

Here’s what the State Department says about pipeline jobs: “Including direct, indirect and induced effects, the proposed project would potentially support approximately 42,100 average annual jobs across the United States over a 1- to 2-year period (of which approximately 3,900 would be directly employed in construction activities). This employment would potentially translate into approximately $2.05 billion in earnings.

“Operation of the proposed project would generate 35 permanent and 15 temporary jobs, primarily for routine inspections, maintenance and repairs.”

The Keystone XL pipeline would provide:

- Another supply link between Canada and the United States, which already imports most of our northern neighbor’s oil production.

- A needed new route to get Bakken crude to market.

- Property tax revenues in Montana and several eastern counties.

- A large number of U.S. construction jobs and a small number of permanent jobs.

This Alberta tar sands oil is going to market one way or the other. The best way is through Montana via the proposed Keystone XL pipeline.

The EIS review will be completed in a couple of months. Then President Obama should approve the pipeline permit in the best interest of the United States.

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