Anti-Pipeline Activism Taking its Toll on U.S. Economy

Tulsa World today published an opinion piece from former Oklahoma Corporation Commission chairman Patrice Douglas regarding the consequences of anti-pipeline activism. Short-sighted opposition to critical energy infrastructure development is starting to take its toll on an economy already facing unprecedented challenges. Douglas writes:

Projects like the operational but long-disputed Dakota Access, stalled Keystone XL, cancelled Atlantic Coast and the nearly complete Permian Highway Pipeline have been the focus of extraneous legal and political scrutiny, which in some cases has resulted in litigation with significant and detrimental economic consequences. As arguments develop inside and outside the courtroom, a common understanding of what is at stake is imperative to avoid permanent harm to an industry whose well-being is directly attached to the economic health of the country as a whole.

Douglas emphasizes that pipeline opponents either overlook or fail to understand the rigor of the multi-year pipeline permitting and approval process. She explains:

Though requirements vary slightly from state to state, all proposals have to undergo extensive scientific review, community consultation and structural evaluation at the local, state and national level. This culminates in an environmental assessment that, as in the case of Dakota Access, can be nearly 1,000 pages in length. Although this process does not entirely eliminate the possibility of future accidents, it does ensure that the degree of risk that approved projects entail is at level far below that of alternative methods of transportation like truck and rail, which are more polluting, costly for roads and bridges and have a greater chance of experiencing disruption.

The impact of anti-energy activism extends far beyond the oil and gas industry. Douglas notes that opponents “invent highly improbable disasters as justification for curtailing energy infrastructure development, but the comprehensive economic damage that ensues from frivolous anti-pipeline litigation is not just hypothetical.” The economic impacts are real, and consumers are left to pay the price:

A recent Consumer Energy Alliance report found that pipeline delays are already causing nearly $14 billion in lost investment, threatening more than 66,000 jobs and sapping hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of state tax revenue. Another report found a Dakota Access shutdown alone would lead to the loss of more than 7,000 jobs and $900 million in state tax revenues.

Douglas argues that these figures are only going to grow as anti-energy rhetoric and challenges continue, and should not be dismissed as “acceptable costs in the push for a cleaner future.” She concludes:

Understanding the importance of energy infrastructure does not require one to ignore legitimate and nuanced concerns over pipeline construction. To be sure, there are meaningful conversations to be had about the permitting and oversight process for new projects. Pipeline companies and their investors, least of all stakeholders, do not want to see an accident occur. However, the excessive politicization and litigation of the issue by ill-informed environmental reactionaries, who more often than not are immune to the negative economic consequences of their own advocacy, is measurably harmful.

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