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South Dakota Petroleum Marketers Association Corrects Opposition Amid Skewed Facts

The South Dakota Petroleum and Propane Marketers Association is the setting the record straight after recent attempts by environmental activists to disseminate false information about the Dakota Access Pipeline during the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission hearing. Environmentalists are claiming that Bakken crude is somehow more volatile than other types of crude oil, despite the director of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) discounting this ‘fact’ just last month.

In a press release, Dawn Leitzke, Executive Director of the South Dakota Petroleum and Propane Marketers Association noted the PUC hearings are “not a forum for political debate, rather a place for reasoned, structured testimonies based in fact.”

Leitzke goes on to say, “South Dakota has over 6,500 miles of gas and petroleum pipelines buried underground. That’s twice the length of the country, and they operate safely daily. These pipelines help power the state and regional economy, and deliver energy to the consumers who need it.”

The bottom line is that “Bakken crude has significantly eased the energy supply burden for the upper Midwest,” and the proposed Dakota Access Pipeline would provide safe and reliable source of transportation for these valuable natural resources.

Read the full release here.

IUB Upholds Orderly DAPL Approval Process, Rejects Motion for Time Delaying Study

The Iowa Utilities Board expressed its commitment to an orderly approval process in the case of the application for the Dakota Access Pipeline, rejecting a motion from the Sierra Club for an environmental review. The MAIN Coalition was active in the case, arguing that the IUB has no express authority to order such a review and that other state agencies more qualified to conduct such as an assessment may raise the issue via testimony submitted to the agency.

In its decision to reject the motion for a study, the Iowa Utilities Board stated:

The Board will not address in this order the sufficiency of the testimony Dakota Access has filed, as that is something for the Board to decide after the hearing. (…) The fact remains that the existing agency process has been sufficient to address environmental issues in the past and so far, no one has shown that it will not be sufficient here.

It must be noted that the Sierra Club and No Bakken Here, who filed the motion, did so not out of concern for the safety of the project, an aspect that has been addressed at length in the already ongoing process, but as a tactic to delay, stall, and ultimately reject the project. If such an action were to happen, it would deny access jobs to be created by its construction for thousands of Iowans, and forfeit the millions of dollars of tax revenue that the Dakota Access Pipeline would generate for the state. A similar last-minute motion was rejected last week by the South Dakota’s Public Utility Commission, who expressed concerns at the last minute motion to stay the proceedings with no real precedent to support such a decision. The Sierra Club also had another such action rejected by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals for a pipeline in Missouri.

While it is important to make sure that energy infrastructure investments are safe, this should not be done in bad faith as a mere delay tactic. The Dakota Access Pipeline offers the Midwest a safer and more secure option of transporting American-produced energy out of the region. To not invest in energy infrastructure means accepting the status quo, with oil trains picking up the slack.

While future generations may utilize power from non-traditional energy sources on an economically feasible scale, to suggest it as a viable alternative to improving the delivery of the fuels we use today is irresponsible and belongs in the realm of fantasy. Unfortunately, that is the only alternative that groups such as the Sierra Club and No Bakken Here can come claim.

We are confident that the state agencies involved in approving energy infrastructure projects will hold up public safety as a priority and will proceed accordingly. Based on the current operation of more than 40,000 miles of pipelines in Iowa, we are confident that the Dakota Access Pipeline will be operated in a likewise safe manner.

Read the full decision here.

MAIN Co-Chair: Dakota Access a “Long-Term Investment in Iowa’s Future”

Mike Ralston, president of the Iowa Association of Business and Industry (ABI) reiterated his support for the Dakota Access Pipeline project underscoring its importance to the business climate of the state. As the voice of Iowa business, ABI has long advocated for a competitive business climate in the state and sought to support investments that would benefit the state economy. According to Ralston, the Dakota Access Pipeline does just that:

“The Dakota Access Pipeline will provide a boost to our state’s economic growth in a variety of ways. These benefits go well beyond the direct private investment. During construction, thousands of workers will live in local hotels, eat at locally-owned restaurants and buy gas at area gas stations. The construction work alone is expected to generate $35.3 million in sales taxes and $14.6 million in income taxes. All of this new revenue will be invested back into our state and local communities.

(…) The employment opportunities, an influx of new revenue to businesses along the pipeline’s route and future benefits for our state and local communities are all examples of why this project makes sense for Iowa. After construction, the pipeline will deliver more than $27 million in revenue to our local communities. This means even more potential funding for schools and community services and programs.”

In addition to improving Iowa’s economy, Ralston points out the benefits to the nation’s energy market:

“This project also represents an investment in domestically produced energy, which is beneficial to all Iowans. The United States is now the largest oil and natural gas producer in the world. This not only helps the many businesses engage in these efforts, it also helps us here in Iowa as a large consumer of petroleum products for our agriculture and manufacturing industries.”

To read Ralston’s complete remarks, click here.

Guest Blog: Let us Build Dakota Access Right

By Will Thomssen

As South Dakota’s Public Utility Commission continues to review the application of the Dakota Access Pipeline, it is clear that this is an investment which is beneficial to our state, the region, and the country. With a capital investment of nearly one billion dollars in South Dakota, the Dakota Access Pipeline will create anywhere between 2,000 and 4,000 jobs, half of which will be sourced from local union halls.

While this is good news for the working men and women of South Dakota, it also means that the income generated by this project will benefit the local businesses and communities along the route of the pipeline through payroll taxes and spending. By choosing to work with unions, the Dakota Access Pipeline will be built using the best and most well trained workforce possible. Men and women working in the construction field are constantly sharpening their skills both through countless hours of real world experience as well as through courses and classes.  As a long-time member of the International Union of Operating Engineers, I support the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline and can proudly say that we will get the job done right.

Will Thomssen is a South Dakota resident and member of Local 49 ABR, International Union of Operating Engineers.

U.S. Energy Companies Named “Investment Heroes” for 2015

Over the last few years, politicians and the American public have been debating over the right way to reenergize our national economy and bring back a time of national prosperity, in a way that helps all segments of our society.

Since 2012, the Progressive Policy Institute (PPI) has been analyzing a critical driver of the national economy, companies with high domestic investment, and published an annual report entitled U.S. Investment Heroes, which documents their findings. As PPI stated, “sustainable economic growth, job creation, and rising real wages require domestic business investment.” Energy companies have had a large percentage of the list to themselves, and for good reason. Energy production requires a skilled labor force and taps into various parts of the economy.  Many experts have credited the energy revolution and low energy costs for American businesses as the reason why the American economy was able to weather the recession to the extent that it did.

On the list of the top 15 “Investment Heroes”, 7 are occupied by energy companies. Among them is Energy Transfer Equity, a company in the same family as Energy Transfer Partners, the constructors of the planned Dakota Access Pipeline with U.S. based investments, totaling over $5.3 billion.

The MAIN Coalition has advocated for increased investment in energy infrastructure in the Midwest for many reasons, one of which being the stimulus potential for domestic and regional markets. The Dakota Access Pipeline is a great example of how U.S. domestic investment can benefit American workers. American steel mills were booked to capacity in order to produce the pipe for the project, and Midwestern contractors have been tapped to do the job, which they have pledged to complete using 100% union labor, sourced in large part from local union halls.

As the South Dakota Public Utility Commission kicks off its ten day hearing to look at the pipeline’s application, it should be worth reiterating the positive economic effects that such a pipeline would bring to the Midwest. There is no reason why the billions of dollars that are invested into our national economy by American companies cannot benefit the families and communities in our region.

Read the full report here.

Why the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission Should Approve Dakota Access

The South Dakota Public Utilities Commission kicks off a two-week hearing this week examining the question of whether or not to approve the Dakota Access Pipeline. The pipeline is a multi-billion dollar major investment in the energy infrastructure of the Midwest, and will provide a safe, reliable delivery method for around a half million barrels per day of American crude oil to American consumers.

The project deserves the PUC’s approval, and not just because it will benefit our state, or because it will create jobs and investment throughout the Midwest. The project deserves the PUC’s approval because it is a vital and necessary step forward for the energy infrastructure upon which South Dakota and our entire nation relies.

Close to home, the Dakota Access Pipeline will benefit the state in numerous ways. For one, it will make the transport of oil in the state and in the region safer. Due to a lack of adequate infrastructure, the beginning of the energy revolution marked a sharp increase in the amount of oil transported by rail in the region. Great as the freight rail system is in our country, it just simply was not designed with petroleum shipping in mind. The winding and often circuitous routes traveled by crude trains through South Dakota put strain on regional freight infrastructure and, unfortunately, can put our environment at risk of spill, derailment, or other unexpected incidents. Pipelines come with some risk too – and we all know that no method of transportation – whether it’s an automobile, an airliner, or anything in between – is perfect. But managing the risk associated with transporting crude oil must be a priority, and statistics from the federal government and numerous other sources have consistently shown that pipelines are the safest mode of transporting petroleum.

In addition to making South Dakota safer, shifting crude off roads and railways and into pipelines allows farmers to gain easier access to rail cars when they need them. A recent paper released by the American Farm Bureau Federation made clear that overburdened rail infrastructure can have a significant effect on farmer’s bottom lines. The 2014 harvest season alone brought losses totaling well over half a billion dollars. Freight rail costs ballooned to $500 to $8,000 over tariff per rail car. Rail carriers have made considerable progress in their efforts to improve service overall, but even under the best of conditions, the rapid uptick in crude oil production in the Bakken region means that other freight alternatives must be developed if grain farmers and other commodities shippers hope to keep pace. Developing our region’s rich oil reserves should not negatively impact our state’s farmers and ranchers, and it doesn’t have to.

Adding to safety and reliability, there are economic benefits to be gained. The project represents a capital investment of $820 million in South Dakota alone and is estimated to generate around $38 million in sales and income taxes during its construction. The pipeline will provide South Dakota with a new stream of property taxes once completed, with over $13 million estimated to be paid in 2017. The project will create between 2,000 and 4,000 construction jobs for South Dakotan men and women.

The South Dakota members of the MAIN Coalition represent a diverse set of industries and trades. From hospitality, to agriculture, to trucking, and construction, we are united in the belief that our state should take advantage of the opportunity before us and commit to improving our energy infrastructure. The Dakota Access Pipeline will not only improve South Dakota’s economy and people, but will help bring our country one step closer to energy independence. The project will enable American crude oil producers to ship American crude oil to American consumers. It will reduce our reliance on oil from unstable foreign regimes and enhance our ability to assert control over our nation’s energy and economic future.

For these reasons and others, it’s no surprise that South Dakota media outlets like the Argus Leader have editorialized in support of the project.

South Dakota currently faces some choices regarding transporting energy. Crude by rail shipments can continue to rumble through South Dakota towns, crowding out the products of our state’s farmers or we can choose to build a state of the art pipeline specifically designed to conduct such a task in a safe and efficient manner. The path forward is clear, and by choosing to invest in our state’s energy infrastructure, we can build a safer and stronger South Dakota, create thousands of jobs and spark hundreds of millions in investment, and help move our nation one step closer to a secure energy future.  We urge the PUC to recognize the merits of this application and approve the project to move forward.

Let Facts Guide the Decision of the PUC

As the date draws closer for South Dakota’s Public Utilities Commission hearing regarding the Dakota Access Pipeline, opposition activists have resorted to disseminating distorted facts to support their stance and agitate against this important investment project. Much of these opponents are driven by ideology, not facts or economics, and their ideas are as infeasible as they are ruinous to South Dakota’s economy. Stubborn as they are, facts paint a different picture.

Currently, South Dakota has a little over 6,500 miles of gas and petroleum pipelines buried underground, more than enough to stretch from New York to Los Angeles and back. These pipelines help power the state and regional economy, delivering energy to the consumers who need it. Land containing underground pipelines does not lose its value. Even more important, major pipelines such as the Dakota Access Pipeline choose routes that skirt large population centers and run under open land, which can be used afterwards for farming and grazing as it was done before.

Contrary to what some are saying, landowners are not abandoned after construction of the pipeline is done. It is the responsibility of companies such as Dakota Access LLC to make sure that suitable pipeline reclamation has been conducted while federal and state laws require that companies constructing pipelines be fully responsible for their operation and safety. Before the Dakota Access pipeline goes into service, it will be pressure tested and all welds will be applied by trained and certified craftsmen, as well as inspected by x-rays. In addition, all waterway crossings have automatic shutoff valves, as well as thicker pipe and extra pressure sensors to guard against any potential risks.

An additional distorted fact circulating is the idea that Bakken crude is somehow more volatile than other types of crude oil. This “fact” was discounted by Christopher Hart, the director of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) as recently as last week.

It should go without saying, that transporting American-produced crude oil by pipeline is the safest, most efficient form of transportation. Pipeline expansion in the Dakota region has demonstrated a positive effect on crude oil shipments, which frees up room for agricultural products. According to a recent American Farm Bureau study, the farmers of the Upper Midwest lost $570 million during the 2014 harvest due to a combination of various circumstances. Reducing and removing crude oil from our region’s railroads will have great benefits for those in South Dakota’s agricultural sector.

Investments such as Dakota Access Pipeline can help cement the 21st century as one where our country becomes self-sufficient and a net energy exporter. Such an America will make for a better economy and a better future. It is important that facts, not conjectures and distortions guide the decision of the Public Utilities Commission.

Midwest Firms On Board for Dakota Access Construction

Dakota Access Pipeline, LLC, the company constructing the Dakota Access Pipeline announced in a press release that construction contracts have been awarded to two Midwestern firms, based in Brownsville and Eau Claire, Wisconsin. Both firms have committed to using 100% union labor and half of those positions will be filled using local union halls in the states along the project’s route.

Michels Pipeline and Precision, the construction companies tapped for the project also made further commitments to benefit workers along the route, pledging to use equipment made by Midwestern companies:

In anticipation for the project and 2016 demand, it has been estimated that Michels Pipeline and Precision have made commitments exceeding $200 million to Caterpillar, John Deere, and Vermeer for heavy construction and related equipment, with positive manufacturing impacts to Iowa, Illinois, and the surrounding region. Caterpillar, John Deere, and Vermeer have individually filed letters supporting the project with the respective state utility board or commissions.

The president of the Iowa-based Vermeer Corporation explained the significance of working on the Dakota Access Pipeline:

As an Iowa-based manufacturer of the equipment to be used in the Dakota Access Pipeline Project, Vermeer depends on such projects in order to give back to its team members and the communities where they live. (…) Together, we have opportunity to add and secure more jobs within our businesses, and support a progressive economy throughout the Midwest.

Tom Pellette, a group president of the Illinois-based Catepillar Inc. echoed the sentiment and emphasized the importance of the project for the region’s energy security:

Caterpillar is proud to support the Dakota Access Pipeline project. Energy sources must be developed and used in an environmentally sustainable manner and also delivered in a responsible way, and this pipeline is a prime example of that. From a Caterpillar perspective, we and our eight Cat® dealers in North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa and Illinois – who will help support this project – employ nearly 25,000 people at about 80 locations. Access to affordable and dependable energy resources is critical for energy security and economic prosperity, and we look forward to helping our customers succeed in the completion of this project by delivering world-class construction equipment to these areas in which we live and work.

 By working with Midwestern businesses and labor, the Dakota Access Pipeline has shown its commitment to ensuring that the communities in our region reap the economic benefits from energy infrastructure expansion and guarantees that the money invested into the project will end up directly and indirectly in the pocketbooks of families from North Dakota to Illinois. That is certainly a cause for celebration.

Canadian Study Finds Pipelines 4.5 Times Safer Than Transport by Rail

A Canadian think tank has released a detailed study looking at incident rates of pipelines and trains carrying oil and natural gas, and has found that between 2003 and 2013, the “rate of occurrences” was 4.5 times higher for rail than for pipelines.

A further analysis of pipeline incidents reveals encouraging developments as well:

(…) 73 per cent of pipeline occurrences resulted in spills of less than 1m3 while 16 per cent didn’t cause any spill whatsoever. More importantly, most occurrences (83 per cent) didn’t happen in transit, they happened in facilities (ie: compressor stations, processing plants and terminals) which are more likely to have secondary containment mechanisms and procedures.

As the analysis showed, most incidents that have been defined as spills were small and occurred in controlled environments, and did not cause any environmental damage. This study has reflected analysis done in the United States, which has yielded similar conclusions. Pipelines are specifically designed to carry oil and natural gas safely, efficiently, and predictably.

While no mode of transporting energy is perfect, our economy relies on petroleum and natural gas energy to function and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. To argue that blocking such investments will make a transition to green energy any quicker is an unrealistic and irresponsible position.  Recent oil train accidents, such as the one in Dubuque, have demonstrated the pitfalls on our region’s overreliance on rail to transport oil.

In addition to safety, our region’s farmers have lost money, almost half a billion dollars last year alone, due to oil crowding out their products from the system. The economics and safety numbers point to one conclusion, and it was summed up by the author of the study Kenneth Green:

In both Canada and the United States, rising oil and natural gas production necessitates the expansion of our transportation capacity.

With our nation looking to be the energy independent power that it should be, we could not agree more.

Click here to read the full text of the study, courtesy of the Fraser Institute.

Former Green Beret Makes Moral Case for American Energy Independence

Energy independence is frequently discussed in many contexts in America. Commentators and economists speculate on the number of jobs created, the benefit to GDP, etc. However, as one former Green Beret puts it in a recent op-ed for the Colorado-based Gazette, there is a moral case for energy independence as well. According to D. Sperry Redd, he saw the moral implications of American energy independence from a very unique standpoint:

I becameacquainted with this reality in the military where I spent the better part of 20-plus years in foreign lands defending, among other things, our access to affordable oil. I witnessed the cost in blood and treasure that we have had to pay to secure our national security interests. I found myself standing between innocent civilians and evil terrorist forces funded by savage regimes who are enriched by the very petro dollars we pay them to keep the engine of our economy running.

Sperry goes on to say that reducing America’s dependence on foreign oil would allow the country to extricate itself from entangling arrangements, and permit the United States to forgo the  financial and human expense of trying to secure access to oil rich areas abroad.

Achieving energy independence does not mean sacrificing our environment, however. Sperry states:

We have developed the techniques and technology that now enable us to use our own domestic energy resources in the most efficient, clean and environmentally friendly way.

The Upper Midwest holds one of the keys necessary to achieving energy independence in the form of the Bakken oil formation. Whether or not the Midwest helps America achieve the goal of energy independence will hinge on our region’s ability to develop a modern, reliant, and efficient energy infrastructure. The economic and security incentives are there. As Mr. Sperry has seen firsthand, the moral case exists as well.