Dakota Access added another permit to the basket it needs on Wednesday, with the unanimous approval by North Dakota regulators of a siting permit to construct a new pumping station in Emmons County.
The 6,000-horsepower pumping station is part of a broader project to expand the Dakota Access pipeline, nearly doubling the four-state pipeline’s capacity to 1.1 million barrels per day.
The pipeline runs for 358 miles in North Dakota. The expansion will not require any additional mainline pipe, but will require new pumping stations in three of the four states the pipeline crosses.
The vote, on Wednesday morning Feb. 19, followed a 15-hour public hearing in which many objections were raised by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, as well as multiple pre- and post-hearing filings, and more than 26,000 comments and petition signatures related to the project.
There was a work session in January to consider the $40 million project, which required a permit since the proposed new pumping station lies outside the pipeline’s original footprint.
“This permit process included a very thorough review of the impacts and potential risks of this proposed expansion. The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, as official interveners, brought to light a number of important issues that we fully vetted through multiple experts during the extensive hearing process. The Tribe’s participation improved this process and I really appreciate their involvement,” said Commissioner Julie Fedorchak who holds the siting portfolio. “I’m satisfied that the company’s overall plans including leak detection and integrity management plans, worst case discharge response plans, and commitment to exceed federal requirements for surge protection effectively meet and in cases exceed the state’s permitting requirements.”
Members of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe had wanted the Public Service Commission to require additional spill risk and surge analysis, but North Dakota regulators decided not to pursue that.
“It’s imperative that any regulatory body stays within the boundaries of their jurisdictional authority,” PSC Chairman Brian Kroshus said. “Doing otherwise creates regulatory uncertainty and inhibits orderly development. That’s not what the legislature intended when the siting act was written.”
Commissioner Randy Christmann, meanwhile, said that the project had one of the most extensive public hearings in the Commission’s history.
“It’s clear that the DAPL optimization project meets all of North Dakota’s siting criteria and is in the bests interest of our citizens,” he said.
Chase Iron Eyes, lead counsel for the Lakota People’s Law Project, however, said the state chose profits over principles.
“We are saddened that, once again, the input of Standing Rock Nation and others who could be affected by a DAPL spill has been overlooked in the interest of increasing profits for the fossil fuel industry,” he said. “We feel that answers from oil and gas representatives at the hearing were unsatisfactory and misleading. We have studied and we know the dangers because we live on the front lines of extraction. We know that pipelines always leak. Our water supplies are at stake, and our people live under constant threat. The increase of oil in the pipeline will only increase that threat.”
Ron Ness, with the North Dakota Petroleum Council, said the project is essential to respond to growing Bakken oil production, as well as growing demand from oil-shipping customers.
Better market access for Bakken oil will also encourage greater capital investment and create more jobs and economic growth, he added.
“The oil and gas industry in North Dakota already accounts for 50 percent of state tax revenues, and any infrastructure improvement that facilitates more production will lead to additional growth in tax revenues,” Ness said. “We are proud of North Dakota’s contribution to America’s position as the leading oil producer in the world. An optimized DAPL will only help strengthen this position and help the United States ensure a stable domestic supply of oil. This reduces our need for oil from unstable or dangerous parts of the world, and helps ensure stable domestic fuel prices.”
Craig Stevens, with the Grow America’s Infrastructure Now coalition, said the project improves safety, and is key to the nation’s energy infrastructure.
“With today’s vote, DAPL Optimization will allow for North Dakota’s crude oil to continue to meet our country’s growing energy needs,” he said. “In addition to supporting high-skilled jobs and ensuring reliable, affordable energy, pipelines take the risk off the road — they are the safest, most efficient method of transporting natural gas and oil products. It is encouraging to see North Dakota’s regulators prioritizing investment in and the development of our nation’s critical energy infrastructure.”
North Dakota is now the second state to approve the proposed expansion of the Dakota Access pipeline, taking it from 570,000 barrels per day to about 1.1 million.
South Dakota was first. Regulators there did not require additional permitting, since the company’s original application already stated the pipeline could carry 570,000 barrels or more of crude oil per day. A conditional use permit from Lincoln County was required for building the new pumping station, and has already been obtained.
That leaves two states to go, Illinois and Iowa, where tribal and environmental activist groups have opposed the project.
In Iowa, regulators gave the company 30 days to provide additional risk analysis and answers to technical questions in an eight-page order issued in mid-January.
Illinois, meanwhile, was to have a hearing in February, but that was pushed to March 5 & 6.
Dakota Access plans to build two new pumping stations there, one in Hancock County and another along the Ohio River near Joppa, which is close to the state’s southern edge.
They would also replace two pumping stations at Patoka, about 80 miles east of St. Louis.