« Continue Browsing

e-mail article Print     e-mail article E-mail

Bryan Horwath, Forum News Service, Published August 06 2013

Potential Keystone XL pipeline sits unused in southwest ND

GASCOYNE, N.D. – As politicians, energy industry leaders and environmentalists point fingers, argue and debate about a controversial oil pipeline that would link Alberta to Texas, Angie Mikkelson recently went about business as usual at her place of employment.

The Gascoyne Materials Handling & Recycling office complex sits along a gravel road on a quiet and peaceful plot of land in Bowman County of southwest North Dakota that was once a coal mine.

The small building in the process of being renovated is just steps from thousands of pieces of 80-foot metal pipe stacked into rows and tagged for use in the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline.

A dizzying layout of stacked cylinders – most painted with a white latex-like substance to protect them from the elements – has for more than two years been stationed next to a railyard 4 miles east of Scranton, a town with fewer than 300 people far removed from Washington, D.C., politics.

“It’s just an everyday thing for us,” Mikkelson said. “I don’t even think about it anymore. I’ve heard so much about the Keystone (XL), I don’t really care anymore. Nothing much happens with the pipe, except for the cats that live in them.”

Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., received a firsthand look Tuesday at the more than $200 million worth of pipe tagged for use in the Keystone XL pipeline.

“If this pipe gets put in the ground, 500 trucks per day come off (Highway 85),” said Hoeven as he looked over thousands of pieces of pipe stacked near the Gascoyne Materials Handling & Recycling complex several miles east of Scranton.

“Think of the impact that would make,” he said. “Think of the amount of wear and tear and think of the safety that would be improved. We’re going to get this project done and get this pipe in the ground, where it should be.”

Hoeven toured the site where rows of 80-foot metal pipe is being stored with a group of TransCanada officials and journalists.

“Today, between the U.S. and Canada, and a little help from Mexico, we produce 78 percent of the crude (oil) that we consume in this country,” Hoeven said. “Keystone XL alone takes that up another 5 or 6 percent. A few more projects like that and we’ll produce more oil than we consume. We can then tell the Middle East to sell their oil to someone else like China or India or whoever they want. Then those countries can go referee disputes in the Middle East.”

TransCanada project manager Rick Perkins said the pipe – which has been sitting at the site for more than two years – is slated to be used in South Dakota. Perkins said more than 200 miles of pipe could be used for another project if the Keystone XL project is ultimately denied.

No set shipping date

No one knows when the pipe could be shipped from the site for its intended use as part of the more than 1,110-mile Keystone XL pipeline.

The southern portion of pipeline in Oklahoma and Texas already has been cleared for construction. But the northern section, which requires federal approval because it crosses the border with Canada, continues to be debated.

It would bring crude from the Canadian oil sands, and some Bakken crude, to the Gulf of Mexico.

After President Barack Obama’s recent critical comments about the project in The New York Times, Hoeven issued a news release warning that delays in the approval of the pipeline could lead to energy giant TransCanada – the project’s parent – shipping Canadian oil to places such as China and India.

“As we’ve said all along, the Canadian oil sands will be developed with or without U.S. participation,” Hoeven said in a statement. “The question is, will President Obama allow that oil to go east and west to Asia, with no benefit to the American people, or will he approve the permit for the Keystone XL project, spurring jobs, economic growth and energy security for the U.S. and our people?”