Proposed pipeline important to state

For years state and industry officials have lobbied for the need for more pipelines to carry oil out of the Bakken . The goal of the pipelines is to take pressure off railroads and trucks and provide a safer way to move oil.

The Tribune has in the past and continues to support pipelines as a safe alternative for moving oil from the Bakken.

Now a proposed oil pipeline from North Dakota to Patoka, Ill., seeks to achieve those goals. Energy Transfer Partners of Houston wants to build a 1,134-mile pipeline, a project that would cost $3.7 billion. The North Dakota Public Service Commission will begin hearings on the project this month.

The company has gotten about 55 percent of easements it needs in the state, the rest may take some time. Landowners who own 40 tracts of land along the route have formed a group and hired attorneys to negotiate with the company. Among their concerns are land reclamation.

“We’re not against the line,” Matt Kelly, one of the lawyers representing the group, told the Forum News Service. “Our big thing is we want to write the best easement that’s ever been written in North Dakota to protect the landowner.”

“We want to work with each of the landowners as best we can to have the least impact on their land and on what they use the land for,” Chuck Frey, vice president of engineering for Energy Transfer Partners, said.

That sounds like they should be able to reach an agreement, but it could be more complicated than that. Frey said some of the landowners may have had bad experiences with other pipeline companies. And some landowners have told the PSC they have felt threatened or bullied to sign easements by company, according to documents.

An attorney for the North Dakota landowners said the company has been very aggressive at an early stage of the process. Landowner attorneys have filed 24 motions on behalf of their clients to intervene in the PSC hearing process. An administrative law judge will decide whether landowners can ask the company questions during the formal hearings.

The company stresses it plans to do everything the right way. It has hired consultants with experience in land reclamation to develop an agriculture mitigation plan and train the contractors and inspect construction. The pipeline would cross the Missouri River twice in the state and the pipeline route would impact existing and future oil development on at least three tracts of School Trust land. The North Dakota Department of Trust Lands has not signed off on the route.

Because the pipeline also will go through South Dakota, Iowa and Illinois it will be subject to state and federal regulations. The regulatory process isn’t completed in the other states.

Due to the massive size and cost of the project it needs close scrutiny by the PSC and other agencies involved. The company promises a sophisticated leak-detection system and other safeguards.

The Tribune hopes the judge allows landowners to question company officials. The hearings should be as open as possible. The hearings should provide the company, landowners and the public a clear idea of the pipeline’s impact and benefits.

The ability to move oil safely remains important to North Dakota and the nation. Now’s the time to cover all the bases. Pipelines will play a key role in transporting oil.

The scheduled hearings are: 8:30 a.m. Thursday at Baymont Inn, 2611 Old Red Trail, Mandan; 9 a.m. June 15 at High Plains Cultural Center, 194 Central Ave. S., Killdeer: 9 a.m. June 26 at Ernie French Center, 14120 Highway 2, Williston.