Peter Dykstra: Pipeline Policy – EHN

Pipelines have become a regular part of the news cycle in recent years.

Last week, the Canadian government forfeited future investment in the Trans Mountain 2 pipeline, potentially dooming Canada’s dreams of upgrading tar sands oil to petrostate status. Multiple lawsuits and relentless protests from First Nations tribes are credited with stalling the project, which would export tar sands oil throughout the Pacific.

In May 2021, pirates destroyed the Colonial Pipeline system, the aortic source of gasoline for much of the US East Coast.

Much of America went into a familiar petro-anxiety attack until the hack – a ransom effort against Colonial – apparently paid off.

Atlantic Coast Pipeline

cool/flickr revolution

In 2020, a boatload of activists and their lawyers killed off the Atlantic Coast Pipeline Project, a 600-mile conduit to deliver natural gas from Appalachia to Virginia and the Carolinas. It would cross a national park, the Appalachian Trail, waterways and wetlands, passing poor and minority communities. Its owners, Dominion Energy and Duke Energy, have since announced accelerated plans to switch to cleaner energy.

The Dilbit Disaster

In 2010, an obscure petro-goo called dilbit – diluted bitumen — poured into Michigan’s Kalamazoo River.

Enter an obscure news site that just dropped its weird name, Solve the climate news.

The revamped Inside climate news was a dynamo, giving the Michigan oil spill its own name – “The Dilbit Disaster” – and its slogan – “the biggest oil spill you’ve never heard of”.

Indoor climate reports the poor safety record of Enbridge, the operator of the pipeline, and another spill in Arkansas on an ExxonMobil line. The news site won a 2013 Pulitzer Prize, raising the profiles of pipelines and nonprofit journalism.

Dakota Access Pipeline

Dakota Access Pipeline protest


The Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) was proposed in late 2014 to deliver oil from North Dakota’s fractured jackpot, the Bakken Shale, to refineries in the South.

Its initial proposed route took DAPL skirting north of Bismarck, the capital of North Dakota. After revisions, DAPL bypassed just north of the Standing Rock Sioux reservation, potentially threatening the Missouri River’s source of drinking water for the tribe and its neighboring Cheyenne River Sioux tribe.

By spring 2016, they and thousands of supporters had set up camp near the construction site. Pipeline protests attract the North Dakota National Guard. armed with tear gas and rubber bullets.

Oil began to flow when President Trump signed an executive order clearing the way, and after back-and-forth legal battles and a brutal winter, the National Guard cleared the camp two months later.

Keystone XL

Keystone XL Event


In 2008, owners TransCanada and Conoco applied for permits to extend its Keystone pipeline from Alberta to Texas. They expected a huge increase in production from Alberta’s oil sands fields.

Writer-activist Bill McKibben and others launched what seemed like a long-running campaign to stop KXL. Farmers and other landowners along the route joined them.

Opposition is growing on both sides of the border.

In November 2015, President Obama signed an executive order halting construction on KXL. President Trump rescinded the order shortly after taking office in 2017.

President Biden canceled KXL on his first day in office.

North Flow 2

Of course, a pipeline is also at the heart of today’s greatest geopolitical crisis in the world. Oil and gas exports are major factors in the Russian economy.

Perhaps the most hurtful of the economic retaliation deployed by the West is Germany’s shutdown of the new Nord Stream 2 – a completed project that awaits final German approval before gas flows to Western Europe and cash flow to Vladimir Putin’s carbon kingdom.

Western Europe, and Germany in particular, deserves credit for its willingness to take a hit by losing a major source of cheap energy.

But losing their need for fossil fuels would help starve two tyrants: Putin and climate change.

Peter Dykstra is our weekend editor and columnist and can be reached at [email protected] or @pdykstra.

Its views do not necessarily represent those of Environmental Health News, The Daily Climate or the publisher Environmental Health Sciences.

Banner photo from the Dakota Access Pipeline protest in Minneapolis, Minnesota in 2017 by Fibonacci Blue/flickr

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