D.C. Officials Briefed on Pipeline Safety Concerns


Eastern Montana landowners are concluding two days of discussions today in Washington, D.C., expressing to officials their concerns with the proposed Keystone XL pipeline and how they and other landowners might be affected. Both are members of the Northern Plains Pipeline Landowners Group of Montana, which is negotiating as a bloc with TransCanada, the builder of the Keystone XL from the Alberta tar sands to the Gulf Coast. It would cross 283 miles of eastern Montana.

On Wednesday, Sandy Barnick, a farmer and rancher from Glendive, and Wes James, whose family farm is east of Circle, met with staff of Sen. Jon Tester and Rep. Denny Rehberg, as well as and with U.S. Department of Transportation officials.

Today they are to meet with staff of Sen. Max Baucus, a House Subcommittee that deals with pipeline safety, and staff at the Department of Interior.

Though not opposed to the pipeline, the Northern Plains Pipeline Landowners Group has concerns it wants addressed including eminent domain, public safety, and the lack of an emergency response plan.  

Eminent domain is a particularly important issue as many of the members of the Northern Plains Pipeline Landowners Group are farmers and ranchers; the pipeline could cost them a significant portion of their livelihoods.

“One of our issues is regarding the use of eminent domain,” said Barnick. “The use of condemnation by TransCanada could impair the nation’s food producers without fair and just compensation. There also is no clear evidence that the pipeline is needed. We’ve been pleased with the meetings with the staff of our congressional delegation.”

In addition to concerns about their livelihood, Montana citizens are worried about public safety near the proposed pipeline. 

“We have stressed that safety is paramount,” said James, who is also a retired professor of civil engineering at Texas A&M. “Municipal water lines are designed to a higher standard than oil pipelines. TransCanada is proposing to operate the pipeline at 80 percent of the yield stress of the pipe. Municipal lines use 50 percent of yield stress. We want the design of the pipeline to be 72 percent, which is the U.S. standard. There is no extra steel in the pipe to account for corrosion.

“This pipeline would operate at about 25 times higher pressure than a municipal water system. If they did have a rupture, it would blow 2,400 feet. Even buried four feet underground, a rupture would quickly blow away the dirt.

“We also are concerned that this pipeline is going to devalue the farms much more than what they’ll receive for the pipeline easement.”

Barnick and James also stressed the need for an emergency response plan on how the company plans to clean up a spill if it occurs. The group wants to be able to review the plans before the pipeline is built.


Souce: Northern Plains Resource Council

Posted by Kaci Switzer

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