‘Keep It in the Ground’ Anti-Energy Extremists Attack Oil Pipelines
|Energy opponents cut a chain on an oil pipeline valve near Clearbrook, Minn|
Protest group Climate Direct Action said the move was in support of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, which has protested the construction of a separate $3.7 billion pipeline carrying oil from North Dakota to the U.S. Gulf Coast over fears of potential damage to sacred land and water supplies.
What's more, tampering with high-pressure oil pipelines could damage the environment saboteurs claim they want to protect:
Pipelines can be heavily pressurized depending on length and altitude variation, and shutting off a valve could cause ruptures that are "catastrophic" for the environment, Paul Tullis of Tullis Engineering Consultants said.
"It's like a freight train," he said of the momentum with which the oil moves. "If these people are hydraulic engineers, they might be able to do this safely."
Activists often do not fully know what they are doing, even if they think they do, Tullis said.
Protesters said they spent months studying how to safely shut the valves. The ability for them to access the proprietary information necessary to shut a line safely was questioned by experts.
Either way, pipeline specialists said it was lucky there were no leaks on Tuesday. Once the valves are shut, pressure can quickly build up inside pipelines that operate under as much as 1,000 pounds (450 kg) per square inch.
Protesters were taking a chance that a weak spot in a line would not explode, and that employees in operations hubs would spring into action after hearing alarms.
... Approx. 9:00 – Activists unlock and the valve is firmly closed. The vibration reaches a fever pitch, but once the valve is wrenched as far as humanly possible to the right, the vibration stops altogether. Activists lock back onto the valve.
Note the irony of an oil spill caused by people violently opposed to oil. This is what happens when people reading stuff on the internet think they can safely shut off a pipeline.
At this rate, someone will get hurt.
"On the wrong pipeline, in the wrong place (actions like this) could kill people,” pipeline expert, Richard Kuprewicz, cautioned Reuters.
What's more, these attacks (under the guise of protests) ignores the importance of pipelines and other pieces of energy infrastructure to a modern economy. We need to be able to move energy from where it’s produced to where families and businesses use it, as Matt Koch of the U.S. Chamber's Institute for 21st Century Energy explains:
The fierce resistance and abuse of the regulatory processes by those who want to “keep it in the ground” is incredibly shortsighted.
... However, environmentalists continue to battle pipeline and transmission line construction, recently claiming victory as projects that would bring gas from Pennsylvania to the northeast (Constitution Pipeline; Northeast Energy Direct Pipeline) were abandoned after fierce opposition from environmentalists and long regulatory delays. Now, protests have become violent while trying to delay construction of the important Dakota Access oil pipeline project. Of course, there is also the infamous denial of Keystone XL by the Obama Administration.
America is blessed with tremendous supplies of all forms of energy, the ingenuity and ability to develop technology to utilize it more cleanly and efficiently, and the means to transport it safely and with little risk as possible. Still, if pipelines and transmission lines can’t get built to move energy supplies to where they are needed, disparities will continue to grow between regions - and all the benefits to consumers, communities, and our economy will be lost.
Just like the Dakota Access Pipeline protestors, the “Keep it in the ground” folks who took part in these attacks have shown that it's not about peaceful, reasonable debate or adequate public consultation; it’s about dictating the energy policy changes they demand by any means necessary.
Sean Hackbarth is a policy advocate and Senior Editor, Digital Content, at U.S Chamber of Commerce. He twitters at @seanhackbarth and is a contributing author at the ARRA News Service.
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