Todd Epp reported Friday that Mobridge, Aberdeen, Harrisburg*, and Canton* are all in "oil train blast zones," near rail lines carrying explosive crude oil shipments. According to the ForestEthics map, so are Lemmon, Milbank, much of Sioux Falls, and North Sioux City. (McCook Lake, we will destroy you one way or another!)
Meanwhile, Energy Transfer Partners of Dallas, Texas, would like to run a 30-inch pipeline carrying an initial volume of 320,000 barrels a day of Bakken crude from the oil fields down to around Mobridge, then hypotenusally to the Hartford–Sioux Falls–Harrisburg metroplex and then from corner to corner across Iowa to Patoka, Illinois, the same refining terminus served by TransCanada's original Keystone pipeline. Doing business via subsidiary Dakota Access, LLC, ETP is sending letters to landowners along the proposed route seeking permission to survey the land and announcing ETP's plans to seek a temporary 150-foot construction easement and a permanent 50-foot access easement. And if landowners don't want to play ball, they could face eminent domain, exercised by a private company for its private profit.
As a purely domestic pipeline, ETP's Bakken–Patoka project is not subject to the State Department review and Presidential approval that (let us give thanks!) has delayed the Keystone XL pipeline. But ETP will need approval from South Dakota's Public Utilities Commission. PU Commissioner Gary Hanson, who is seeking re-election this year, promises the PUC will listen to public input. Dusty Johnson, who traded his seat on the PUC for the seat at Governor Daugaard's right hand, says the Governor hasn't taken a position on ETP's pipeline, but golly gee, we gotta move that oil somehow:
“I know as a country we’re trying to diversify how we use and create energy. But for the foreseeable future, oil’s going to be a big part of that,” said Dusty Johnson, chief of staff to Gov. Dennis Daugaard and a former member of the Public Utilities Commission. “If we’re going to use oil, the question is, where do we want that oil to come from? I would prefer North American oil, whether that comes from North Dakota or Canada or elsewhere.”
Johnson said Daugaard, sympathetic to pipelines in general, hasn’t decided about the Energy Transfer Partners pipeline. The governor’s primary issue is whether the pipeline is safe, Johnson said.
“There can be good pipelines and there can be bad pipelines,” he said [David Montgomery, "Oil Pipeline Plan for Eastern S.D. May Trigger a Battle," that Sioux Falls paper, 2014.07.12].
Oh, the easy surrender to inevitability! Dusty sounds a bit like the mean dad saying, "You can pick: belt or stick. But you will get your beating." We do have the option to not use the oil, or not use as much as fast. We do have the policy option to make the use of petro-products more expensive to protect the general welfare and counter any economic impacts with the stimulus of investing in renewable energy.
We don't have to move more crude through South Dakota by rail or pipeline. We don't have to double or triple the chances of blowing Harrisburg off the map. We don't have to burn that oil.
*Correction 2014.07.14 23:51 CDT: An eager reader and "railfan geek" says the Forest Ethics folks may have read the map wrong and unnecessarily alarmed the good folks hearing train whistles in Sioux Falls, Harrisburg, and Canton. Rick tells us that the line running southwest from Willmar enters South Dakota at Sherman, continues to Garretson, then bounces east across the border again. Big oil trains would take that line. A secondary BNSF line does branch off at Garretson and head down Harrisburg- and Canton-way, but you won't find oil trains on that secondary line.