The Company Behind Dakota Access Pipeline Has Another Big Problem In Ohio

A protester waves an American flag as an activist approaches the police barricade with his hands up on a bridge near Oceti Sakowin Camp on the edge of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation. Photographer: Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images

By Catherine Traywick for Bloomberg – The year began with optimism for Rover. The 2016 election landed friends of Energy Transfer in high places. Former Texas Governor Rick Perry was a company director before he became Energy secretary. President Donald Trump is a former shareholder. After just two weeks in office, Trump cleared the way for the Dakota Access pipeline, which was stalled for months amid protests from Native Americans and their supporters. In that case, Energy Transfer needed a single approval to complete construction — a federal easement allowing it to drill beneath a lake near the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation. For Rover, the hold-up stems from mishaps that have prompted federal regulators to look closely at Energy Transfer’s conduct before allowing work to finish. Hint of Trouble The first hint of trouble came last year, when Energy Transfer disregarded a FERC recommendation and razed the 173-year-old Stoneman House in Carroll County, Ohio. The agency used the demolition as a basis for denying Rover a blanket construction permit, forcing Energy Transfer to seek federal approvals at virtually every stage of construction. With that restriction, FERC approved the project in February, and Energy Transfer undertook an aggressive construction push. In a matter of weeks, workers cleared 2,918 acres of trees along 511 miles of the pipeline’s route, finishing just in time to beat bat-roosting season, which would have halted work. The company said it’s hired 13,000 workers over the past four months.

Fight Against DAPL Continues Inside And Outside Federal Courthouse

Demonstrators protest the Dakota Access pipeline outside a federal courthouse in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday. (Clara Romeo / Truthdig)

By Emma Niles for Truth Dig – Activists opposing the Dakota Access pipeline (DAPL) made a strong showing of support Wednesday outside a courthouse in Washington, D.C. The self-described “water protectors” rallied while representatives of the Standing Rock Sioux and Cheyenne River Sioux tribes appeared before U.S. District Judge James Boasberg as part of a status hearing in their case against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Despite months of protests, the corps has allowed the oil pipeline to operate near tribal lands. Last week, the judge ruled in favor of the tribes by ordering the corps to “reconsider” its risk analysis of the controversial pipeline. Wednesday’s rally, according to a press release by organizers Rising Hearts Coalition, “will … provide remedy options in how to move forward for both parties.” “Oil still flows,” states the event page for the rally. “But this is a crucial victory in the fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline.”

The Grizzled, Stubborn Lawyers Protecting The Environment From Trump

Indigenous leaders participate in a protest march and rally in opposition to the Dakota Access and Keystone XL pipelines, in front of the Trump International Hotel in Washington, DC in March.KEVIN LAMARQUE/REUTERS

By Nick Stockton for Wired – ON HIS FOURTH full day in office, President Trump signed an executive order that was supposed to settle this whole Dakota Access Pipeline thing—no more delays due to protests, no more reconsidering the route because of environmental worries. And for a while, it seemed to work. The protest camps are gone, and the pipe has been pumping oil since March. But Thursday, a federal judge ordered a do-over on the rush-job environmental review Trump ordered back in January. Trump came into office aiming for a blitzkrieg on environmental regulations. He got trench warfare. That’s because firing from the other side of no man’s land is a nimble alliance of environmental groups that have spent decades preparing for the likes of him. You have probably heard of many of them: the Sierra Club, National Resources Defense Council, EarthJustice, and so on. Others are smaller, focused on regional issues—like the Standing Rock Sioux that just won a small victory against the Dakota Access Pipeline. What they all have in common are stubborn, attrition-minded legal teams. Trump’s assault is just a more bombastic version of what these lawyers have weathered under past administrations. And if there’s any green left in the government by 2020, they’ll be the ones responsible.

Industry Front Group Pushing Atlantic Coast Pipeline

David Wassenaar | Facebook

By Steve Horn for Desmog Blog – DDC is an Associate Member of Edison Electric Institute (EEI), a lobbying and advocacy wing of the electric utilities industry which has paid DDC over $1.8 million to do public relations work since 2012, according to U.S. Internal Revenue Services (IRS) tax forms. According to a list of web domains hosted by DDC and obtained by ThinkProgress in 2009, the Koch Industries political affairs committee, KochPAC — as well as several tobacco companies — have websites hosted by DDC. “We’re strategic partners and problem solvers for your most complex public affairs issues,” DDC says on its website. “We offer the most innovative digital tools, technology and data to help you get the results you need, when and where you need them.” A 2007 client list tracked down by DeSmog shows that DDC has also worked with companies such as BP, Dominion, Edison Electric, Southern California Edison, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, San Diego Gas & Electric, News Corp (owner of Fox News), and others. On its website, a DDC case study page also says it did the digital work for the American Petroleum Institute’s Energy Citizens campaign to promote hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) in the Marcellus Shale.

Victory For Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, Court Finds Approval Of Dakota Access Pipeline Violated Law

Flags fly at the Oceti Sakowin Camp in 2016, near Cannonball, North Dakota.

LUCAS ZHAO / CC BY-NC 2.0

By Jan Hasselman and Phillip Ellis for Earth Justice – The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe won a significant victory today in its fight to protect the Tribe’s drinking water and ancestral lands from the Dakota Access pipeline. A federal judge ruled that the federal permits authorizing the pipeline to cross the Missouri River just upstream of the Standing Rock reservation, which were hastily issued by the Trump administration just days after the inauguration, violated the law in certain critical respects. In a 91-page decision, Judge James Boasberg wrote, “the Court agrees that [the Corps] did not adequately consider the impacts of an oil spill on fishing rights, hunting rights, or environmental justice, or the degree to which the pipeline’s effects are likely to be highly controversial.” The Court did not determine whether pipeline operations should be shut off and has requested additional briefing on the subject and a status conference next week. “This is a major victory for the Tribe and we commend the courts for upholding the law and doing the right thing,” said Standing Rock Sioux Chairman Dave Archambault II in a recent statement. “The previous administration painstakingly considered the impacts of this pipeline…

Anti-Pipeline Protesters Head Back To Court

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By The Sugar Shack Alliance. Massachusetts – On June 20, eighteen members of the Sugar Shack Alliance who were arrested for civil disobedience at Otis State Forest in Sandisfield, MA, will be having their day in court. At the activists first arraignment for the criminal charges brought against them for blocking tree cutting in Otis State Forest, the state put in a motion to have the criminal charges of disorderly conduct and trespass converted into civil charges. Charges stemmed from protesters blocking the gas pipeline workers’ access to a pipeline work site. The hearing on that motion will take place in front of Judge Vrabel on June 20 at 9:00 a.m. at the Southern Berkshire District Court in Great Barrington. Those being tried at the hearing were arrested protesting a the $93 Kinder Morgan Connecticut Expansion Project, a pipeline extension planned for the Massachusetts state forest to store fracked gas that will be used in CT.

Rover Pipeline: Climate Disaster Equal To 42 Coal Plants

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By Kelly Trout for Oil Change International – As controversy swirls around a string of spills and air and water violations caused by Energy Transfer Partners’ construction of the Rover gas pipeline, a study released today underlines another reason federal regulators should halt the project: It will fuel a massive increase in climate pollution. A new analysis by Oil Change International finds that, if the Rover Pipeline is built, it will cause as much greenhouse gas pollution as 42 coal-fired power plants – some 145 million metric tons per year. The study slams the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) for using chronically outdated assumptions to sweep this significant climate impact under the rug in its environmental review of the project. “As the biggest new pipeline being built to carry fracked gas out of the Appalachian Basin, the Rover Pipeline is the biggest climate disaster of them all,” said Lorne Stockman, senior research analyst at Oil Change International and the lead author of the study. “After Trump’s malicious pullout from the Paris climate accord, challenging each new pipeline is all the more important. While FERC remains in a state of denial, it’s increasingly clear that gas pipelines are a bridge to climate destruction.

Judge Rules Environmental Group Can Challenge Sunoco Over Pipeline Eminent Domain

Sunoco Logistics’ use of eminent domain to take private land to build its Mariner East 2 pipeline came into question again on Thursday when a Philadelphia court ruled that an environmental group can argue that the practice is unconstitutional.

Judge Linda Carpenter of the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas denied the company’s request to summarily dismiss a complaint by the Clean Air Council, clearing the way for a trial, possibly at the end of this year.

The Clean Air Council argues that Sunoco has no right to take land via eminent domain because the pipeline is carrying natural gas liquids across state lines and is therefore an interstate, not intrastate, pipeline. If Mariner East 2 is deemed an interstate pipeline, it is not entitled to a “certificate of public convenience” from the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission, the environmental group argues.  That certificate is needed to assert eminent domain to take the land of uncooperative landowners.

The ruling follows two other recent decisions from the Commonwealth Court, which ruled in favor of the company in its disputes with individual landowners.

On Wednesday, the court rejected an appeal of a lower court ruling in Lebanon County.  That judge had sided against Homes for America, a property developer of low-income housing, in its argument against eminent domain.

On May 15, the Commonwealth Court ruled against Stephen and Ellen Gerhart of Huntington County, who have been fighting Sunoco’s plans to build the natural gas liquids pipeline across their land, and argued that the company had no right to use eminent domain because the pipeline is not in the public interest.

Once complete, the 350-mile Mariner East 2 pipeline will carry ethane, propane and butane from the Marcellus Shale of southwest Pennsylvania to a terminal at Marcus Hook in Delaware County, near Philadelphia.  Most of the fuel will be exported. Sunoco began construction in February after getting its final permits from the Department of Environmental Protection, but the project continues to be fought by some communities, especially in densely populated Philadelphia suburbs, where opponents argue it poses a risk to public safety.

In its ruling on Thursday, the Philadelphia court said that neither of the Commonwealth Court rulings addressed the constitutional issues that have been raised by Clean Air Council.

“Because these prior cases stemmed from condemnation proceedings governed by the Eminent Domain Code, there was no available avenue to raise a constitutional challenge,” the judge wrote in an 11-page opinion.

The judge also said that the PUC, which issues the certificates of public convenience on which eminent domain depends, is “not the proper adjudicating body” for a constitutional claim.

Clean Air Council argues that Sunoco’s use of eminent domain violates the U.S. and Pennsylvania constitutions because it is taking land for private rather than public purposes; that it violates the Pennsylvania constitution’s Environmental Rights Amendment, and that it violates due process under both the state and federal constitutions.

Jeff Shields, a spokesman for Sunoco, said the company would have no comment on the latest ruling because the matter is in litigation.

Alex Bomstein, an attorney for Clean Air Council, said the latest ruling shows that the fight over Sunoco’s right to use eminent domain is not over despite the company’s argument that it has been vindicated by the Commonwealth Court.

“This ruling showed that the Commonwealth Court only showed that in certain cases,” Bomstein said. “In fact, there are legitimate, important, constitutional issues that have yet to be decided that bear on whether Sunoco ultimately does have the right to use eminent domain for Mariner East.”

Bomstein said the trial might take place in December.

John Dernbach, a professor of environmental law at Widener University, said the significance of the latest ruling will depend on what the trial court decides about Clean Air Council’s constitutional claims.

“All the court decided was that some of the Clean Air Council’s issues get to go to a hearing,” Dernbach said. “The significance of the case will depend on what the court decides after a hearing. If a court decides that there are constitutional problems with the land condemnations, that would be significant.”

By Jon Hurdle for State Impact NPR – Sunoco Logistics’ use of eminent domain to take private land to build its Mariner East 2 pipeline came into question again on Thursday when a Philadelphia court ruled that an environmental group can argue that the practice is unconstitutional. Judge Linda Carpenter of the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas denied the company’s request to summarily dismiss a complaint by the Clean Air Council, clearing the way for a trial, possibly at the end of this year. The Clean Air Council argues that Sunoco has no right to take land via eminent domain because the pipeline is carrying natural gas liquids across state lines and is therefore an interstate, not intrastate, pipeline. If Mariner East 2 is deemed an interstate pipeline, it is not entitled to a “certificate of public convenience” from the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission, the environmental group argues. That certificate is needed to assert eminent domain to take the land of uncooperative landowners. The ruling follows two other recent decisions from the Commonwealth Court, which ruled in favor of the company in its disputes with individual landowners.

Dakota Pipeline Builder Rebuffed By Feds In Bid To Restart Work On Troubled Ohio Gas Project

Energy Transfer Partners, the company behind the controversial Dakota Access pipeline, drew federal regulators’ attention after a series of violations in Ohio at its Rover pipeline project. Credit: Andrew Burton/Getty Images

By Zahra Hirji for Inside Climate News – The builder of the controversial Dakota Access pipeline was told by federal regulators Thursday that it cannot resume construction on new sections of its other major project, the troubled Rover gas pipeline in Ohio, following a massive spill and a series of violations. In mid-April, Energy Transfer Partners spilled several million gallons of thick construction mud into some of Ohio’s highest-quality wetlands, smothering vegetation and aquatic wildlife in an area that helps filter water between farmland and nearby waterways. New data reveals the amount of mud released may be more than double the initial estimate of about 2 million gallons. Fully restoring the wetlands could take decades, Ohio environmental officials have said. Officials at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) ordered Energy Transfer Partners to halt construction there on May 10. At the time, FERC told the company it could continue work at the rest of its construction sites, but it could not start new operations. The order identified eight future work locations to be temporarily off limits.

Leaked Documents Reveal Counter-terrorism Tactics At Standing Rock

An image on the homepage of the TigerSwan website headlined “Security & Safety: Vulnerability Management.” Photo: TigerSwan.com

Alleen Brown, Will Parrish and Alice Speri for The Intercept. A shadowy international mercenary and security firm known as TigerSwan targeted the movement opposed to the Dakota Access Pipeline with military-style counterterrorism measures, collaborating closely with police in at least five states, according to internal documents obtained by The Intercept. The documents provide the first detailed picture of how TigerSwan, which originated as a U.S. military and State Department contractor helping to execute the global war on terror, worked at the behest of its client Energy Transfer Partners, the company building the Dakota Access Pipeline, to respond to the indigenous-led movement that sought to stop the project.

U.S. Bank Becomes First Major Bank To Stop Financing Pipeline Construction

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By Staff of 350.org for Eco Watch – U.S. Bank has become the first major bank in the U.S. to formally exclude gas and oil pipelines from their project financing. This groundbreaking change to their Environmental Responsibility Policy was publicly announced at the annual shareholders meeting in Nashville in April. In addition to no longer providing “project financing for the construction of oil or natural gas pipelines,” the bank has stated that relationships with their clients in the oil and gas industries will be subject to “enhanced due diligence processes.” As recently as March 2017, U.S. Bank has renewed commitments with Energy Transfer Partners, the company constructing the Dakota Access Pipeline, and with Enbridge Energy, whose pipelines operate within Minnesota. However, advocates are hopeful that the bank’s newly released policy will limit other kinds of financing relationships with these industries. “U.S. Bank’s new policy is an important step in protecting the environment and moving towards a fossil free future,” said Wichahpi Otto, a volunteer with the climate justice group MN350, who travelled to Nashville for the shareholders meeting.

Trump’s Rural Voters Fighting To Keep Land From Growing Web Of Pipelines

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By Stuart Leavenworth for McClatchy – Norm MacQueen would seem to fit the profile of a property owner comfortable with an oil and gas pipeline running through his land. A retired oil refinery employee, MacQueen worked amid risky conditions for more than 20 years, as a pipe fitter and a welder. But early last year, MacQueen learned that an oil company, Sunoco, was planning to install two more pipelines past his family’s home in eastern Pennsylvania, where one already runs. According to MacQueen, Sunoco’s agents told him the company will force his neighbors and him to sell the rights to some of their land – through a process called eminent domain – if they don’t agree to turn it over. “These oil companies have so much power,” fumed MacQueen, standing in his yard on a recent weekday. “They think they can do anything they want.” Eminent domain is often used by governments to gain right-of-way for projects such as highways or government buildings. But state and federal regulators who authorize pipeline projects also typically grant the private companies that are building them the right to use eminent domain to secure needed right-of-way.

Fearing More Pipeline Spills, 114 Groups Demand Halt To Ohio Gas Project

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By Zahra Hirji for Inside Climate News – More than 100 local and environmental groups are demanding federal regulators immediately halt all construction on Energy Transfer Partners’ Rover gas pipeline after a series of environmental violations, including a massive spill that fouled sensitive wetlands in Ohio with several million gallons of construction mud. The groups’ concerns go beyond the Rover pipeline. They also urged federal officials to “initiate an immediate review of horizontal drilling plans and procedures on all open pipeline dockets.” “We think that FERC’s review process has been delinquent so far and not thorough enough, both on this issue with respect to the horizontal drilling practices and other construction processes, but also on broader environmental issues, as well such as the climate impacts of the pipelines like Rover,” said David Turnbull, campaigns director for the research and advocacy group Oil Change International, one of 114 groups that signed a letter sent to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on Wednesday. FERC last week ordered Energy Transfer Partners to not start construction at any new sites along the pipeline route following the spill

How To Contact 17 Banks Funding Tar Sands Pipeline Expansion (Including Keystone XL)

Individual divestment has moved more than $80 million from banks financing DAPL, and organizers would like to see similar effort directed at the tar sands financiers. Photo by Lori Panico.

By James Trimarco for Yes! Magazine – Of the more than 60 banks helping to finance the expansion of tar sands infrastructure, the indigenous-led environmental campaign Mazaska Talks has identified 17 as worst offenders. These banks have either financed all four currently proposed tar sands pipelines or they’ve headed up major multi-bank loans to the companies building them. The proposed pipelines are the Keystone XL, Energy East, Trans Mountain, and Enbridge’s Line 3. All four begin in the tar sands of Alberta, Canada. “Our thought is to be proactive and stop the construction of Keystone now.” Back in November 2015, then-President Barack Obama rejected TransCanada’s application to build the Keystone XL pipeline, saying it would create only a few dozen permanent jobs, would have no significant effect on U.S. energy security, and would damage America’s leadership role on climate change. President Donald Trump reversed that decision in March. The indigenous-led Mazaska Talks campaign to stop the tar sands expansion is focusing on the financing of the pipelines.

US Bank To Stop Funding Pipelines As Divestment Movement Expands Worldwide

A child takes part in a Global Divestment Mobilisation (GDM) action in Davao, Philippines. (Photo: 350.org/flickr/cc)

By Nika Knight for Common Dreams – As a nearly ten-days-long global mobilization calling for divestment from fossil fuels comes to an end, climate campaigners are celebrating a major victory stateside: U.S. Bank has announced that it will no longer finance fossil fuel pipeline construction. “Move to a green economy and a future that does not profit off the destruction of Mother Earth and our communities.” —Tara Houska, Honor the EarthThe announcement came during the company’s April shareholder meeting, reported MN350, a state arm of international climate justice group 350.org, on Monday. As a result of the new policy, MN350 observes that the bank will no longer provide “project financing for the construction of oil or natural gas pipelines,” and will also apply “enhanced due diligence processes” to oil and gas industry clients. “U.S. Bank’s new policy is an important step in protecting the environment and moving towards a fossil free future,” said Wichahpi Otto, a MN350 volunteer, who attended the shareholder meeting in Nashville. “We applaud them for responding to the community and contributing to worldwide efforts to address climate change.”