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Greg Stites, Published April 20 2013

Letter: Fast shuffle on pipelines smells bad

Why have our politicians favored the Keystone XL Pipeline over the Bakken Crude Express Pipeline that was to be built by ONEOK Partners, LP?

In April 2012, ONEOK announced a $1.8 billion exclusive 1,300-mile pipeline to transport 200,000 barrels of Bakken crude per day to southern refineries. ONEOK’s pipeline was to avoid environmentally sensitive areas and parallel 80 percent of ONEOK’s existing natural gas pipelines. It was to be American-designed and constructed using proven technologies.

In mid-2012, ONEOK began soliciting long-term transportation commitments from Bakken oil companies. With frequent news stories featuring our politicians like Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., and Rep. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., complaining about difficulties in moving North Dakota oil to market, one would expect an immediate sell-out of commitments. Unfortunately, ONEOK announced in November there was “insufficient interest” for its Bakken pipeline and canceled the project. Why have we heard so little about this story?

Our politicians have been cheerleading for Keystone’s pipeline for years now. Why haven’t they promoted ONEOK’s pipeline with the same enthusiasm since it’s a better solution?

The closest the Keystone pipeline comes to North Dakota is Baker, Mont., requiring continued trucking. Keystone’s owners will only take 100,000 barrels of Bakken oil because its pipeline primarily is to carry tar sand sludge from Canada. Once refined, it will be sold on the world market. The Keystone pipeline does nothing for U.S. energy independence, as the Chinese and Canadians own the Keystone product.

Is it possible our politicians have promoted Keystone’s pipeline simply to discredit President Barack Obama? Or have the Keystone owners ingratiated themselves to our politicians more than ONEOK was willing to do?

Keystone’s pipeline is not the best way to get Bakken crude to refineries. Mixing Bakken oil with tar sand sludge will only lessen its value, to say nothing of the costs to transport it to Montana on roads already ruined by such traffic. Where was the hue and cry from our politicians when ONEOK was forced to cancel its exclusive Bakken pipeline?

Stites lives in Bismarck.