Monday, October 03, 2016

Pipeline protests proliferate; local and state governments are getting involved, too

Associated Press photo via Stateline
"Pipelines are the safest and most efficient way to transport oil and gas, and it isn’t possible to meet the nation’s demand for fuel using rail or road alone," Jen Fifield writes for Stateline. "But as more oil and gas pipelines crisscross the country, environmental and energy lawyers say protests against them are becoming increasingly common."

Fifield notes the current protests of the Dakota Access Pipeline in South Dakota and Iowa, passage of laws in Georgia and South Carolina that blocked pipeline companies from using eminent domain, New York's withholding of "a required water quality certificate from a pipeline that would have pumped gas from Pennsylvania to New York" and New Jersey towns' passage of ordinances to block pipelines that would run to New York. Recent pipeline leaks have added to concerns, Fifield reports.

"The approval process for pipelines varies, depending on what they will transport and whether a pipeline system crosses state lines. Pipelines that transport oil, as well as pipelines that transport oil or natural gas within a single state, are approved by that state. Pipelines transporting natural gas across state lines must be approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission," Fifield writes. "States rarely block proposals for new oil pipelines, although in recent years some have beefed up safety rules. Yet questions are arising in multiple states over whether private companies have the right to use eminent domain, the power to take land for a public purpose with just compensation, for projects that are sometimes unregulated by the state. Eminent domain laws for pipelines vary by state. In many states, pipeline companies must get approval from the state before using eminent domain."

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