Tag Archives: army corps of engineers

Study: North Dakota pipelines average 4 spills per year

Pipelines in North Dakota have spilled crude oil and other hazardous liquids at least 85 times since 1996, according to an analysis released today by the Center for Biological Diversity. These 85 spills — an average of four a year — caused more than $40 million in property damage, according to the data compiled from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.

The analysis follows the recent decision by the Obama administration not to grant the Dakota Access pipeline an easement for construction under Lake Oahe.

After months of peaceful protests led by the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will undertake a review of alternate routes for the pipeline.

“Pipeline leaks are common and incredibly dangerous, and the Dakota Access pipeline will threaten every community it cuts through,” said the center’s Randi Spivak. “This pipeline wasn’t considered safe for the residents of Bismarck. It is equally unsafe for the water supply of the Standing Rock Sioux. The Army Corps should not be putting anyone’s water supply at risk.”

Energy Transfer Partners, the conglomerate behind the controversial Dakota Access project, has a questionable safety record. The company has been responsible for 29 pipeline safety incidents since 2006, in which 9,555 barrels of hazardous liquids were spilled.

The standoff over the Dakota Access pipeline has united indigenous people across the globe in an unprecedented show of solidarity. Thousands have come to show their support. In response local police have militarized the situation, firing rubber bullets and showering protesters with water in freezing temperatures.

A 2013 study reveals a deeply troubling history of pipeline accidents in the United States. This independent analysis of federal records found that since 1986, oil and gas pipeline leaks, spills and other safety incidents have resulted in nearly $7 billion in damages, more than 2,000 injuries and more than 500 deaths.

A time-lapse video documents significant pipeline” incidents in the continental United States — along with their human and financial costs — from 1986 through May 2013.

On average one significant pipeline incident occurred in the country every 30 hours, according to the data.

“We expect the Corps to conduct a full oil-spill risk analysis for every river crossing along the entire route of the Dakota Access project,” Spivak said in a statement to the press. “Spills are a fact of life when pipelines fail — and that puts water, wildlife and people directly in harm’s way.”

 

Dakota Access Pipeline protesters celebrate, remain at camp

Thousands of protesters in North Dakota celebrated after the federal government ruled against a controversial pipeline project but were mindful the fight is not over, as the company building the line said it had no plans for re-routing the pipe.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said on Sunday it rejected an application to allow the Dakota Access Pipeline to tunnel under Lake Oahe, a reservoir formed by a dam on the Missouri River.

The decision came after months of protests from Native Americans and activists, who argued that the 1,172-mile Dakota Access Pipeline would damage sacred lands and could contaminate the tribe’s water source.
Energy Transfer Partners, in a joint statement with its partner, Sunoco Logistics Partners, said late on Sunday they do not intend to reroute the line, calling the Obama administration’s decision a “political action.” They said they still expect the project to be completed, noting that the Army Corps said they had followed all required legal procedures in the permitting process.

The mood among protesters has been upbeat since the rejection was announced at the Oceti Sakowin camp in Cannon Ball, North Dakota. Activists were seen hugging and letting out war cries in response to the news.

With the incoming administration of President-elect Donald Trump supportive of the project, activists were concerned a reversal could be coming.

“This is a temporary celebration. I think this is just a rest,” said Charlotte Bad Cob, 30, from the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. “With a new government it could turn and we could be at it again.”

The pipeline is complete except for a 1-mile (1.61 km)segment to run under Lake Oahe. That stretch required an easement from federal authorities.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said it will analyze possible alternate routes, although any other route also is likely to cross the Missouri River.

The protest camp’s numbers have swelled in recent days, as hundreds of U.S. veterans have flocked to North Dakota in support of the protesters.

Some of those in a long line of traffic along Highway 1806 heading into the camp hollered and honked their horns after the news was announced.

Craig Edward Morning, 30, a carpenter from Stony Point, New York, said he will leave when the tribe says he should and the company agrees to stop building the line.

“They retreat first,” he said. “They’re the ones that aren’t welcome.”

FIGHT MAY BE A ‘LONG HAUL’

Standing Rock Chairman Dave Archambault II, in a statement, said he hoped ETP, North Dakota Governor Jack Dalrymple and Trump would respect the decision.
“When it comes to infrastructure development in Indian Country and with respect to treaty lands, we must strive to work together to reach decisions that reflect the multifaceted considerations of tribes,” he said.

Trump could direct authorities to approve the line, even if before he takes over from Democratic President Barack Obama on Jan. 20 federal authorities will be studying alternative routes. North Dakota Congressman Kevin Cramer, a Republican, who has advised Trump on energy policy, said the decision ignores the rule of law.

Tom Goldtooth, a Lakota from Minnesota, and a co-founder of Indigenous Environmental Network, said he expects Trump to try to reverse the decision.

“I think we’re going to be in this for the long haul. That’s what my fear is,” he said.

In November, ETP moved equipment to the edge of the Missouri River to prepare for drilling, and later asked a federal court to disregard the Army Corps, and declare that the company could finish the line. That ruling is still pending.

Several veterans who recently arrived in camp told Reuters they thought Sunday’s decision, which came just as Oceti Sakowin has seen an influx of service members, was a tactic to convince protesters to leave.

Those spoken to after the decision said they had no plans to leave because they anticipate heated opposition from ETP and the incoming administration.

“That drill is still on the drill pad. Until that’s gone, this is not over,” said Matthew Crane, 32, from Buffalo, New York, who arrived with a contingent of veterans last week.

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Stand with Standing Rock.

Review finds flaws in environmental assessment of Dakota Access Pipeline

An independent expert hired by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe says the federal government’s environmental assessment of the pipeline’s impact was inadequate.

Standing Rock Sioux Tribe chairman Dave Archambault II now has asked the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to reassess its conclusion that the pipeline crossing will not affect tribal members.

“This underscores one of the fundamental deficiencies of the Final Environmental Assessment—it assumes, without foundation, that placing a massive oil pipeline just upstream from the Reservation presents no risk to the Tribe,” Archambault wrote in his letter to assistant Secretary Jo-Ellen Darcy.

An oil spill at Standing Rock would also impact an estimated 17 million people located down stream from the river, according to Richard Kuprewicz of Accufacts, Inc., a consulting firm that advises government agencies and industry about pipelines.

Accufacts analyzed the government’s environmental assessment on the pipeline and found the Army Corps of Engineers failed to address pipeline safety and the risk the pipeline poses to the waters of Lake Oahe and the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, which draws its drinking water from that lake.

The analysis indicated the assessment significantly underestimated the risk of an oil spill into sensitive areas .

Additionally, the report documented:

• Shoddy pipeline construction

• The risks posed by landslides were underestimated

• Lack of proper safety constructions to contain spills

• Failure to review impact to residents and environment downstream of the site

• A risk review of industry spills and containment at similar sites that document problematic regulatory oversight of the industry in North Dakota

“Mr. Kuprewicz’s findings reflect the common sense point that was somehow lost in the Final Environmental Analysis—that pipelines leak, and that when they do so there are often devastating consequences, particularly when the leak contaminates water,” Archambault wrote in his letter to Darcy. “The public record is filled with examples which further substantiate this point.”

The failure of the Army Corps to adequately assess oil spill risks from the pipeline also raises significant questions about whether the Corp’s review is legally adequate, according to the Standing Rock leader.

“The law requires a full and transparent analysis of risks like oil spills prior to issuance of a federal permit. It’s clear that never happened here,” added Jan Hasselman, who represents the tribe in its litigation against the Army Corps. “We expect the Corps to give this new report close consideration as it determines whether to move ahead with the permits needed to cross the Missouri River—permits that Dakota Access didn’t have before starting construction of the pipeline.”

In light of the report and the deficiencies contained in the environmental assessment, Archambault asked for the government to reconsider its early decisions and disallow the easement for the pipeline crossing.

Standing Rock’s pipeline protest swells into a movement

CANNON BALL, North Dakota — A Native American tribe’s efforts to halt construction of a crude oil pipeline in North Dakota have swelled into a movement, drawing international attention and the support of movie stars and social media, and making a major oil company blink.

While the tribe’s lawyers work to persuade a federal judge to withdraw permits for the pipeline in a ruling expected on Friday, thousands of protesters gathered at campgrounds near Standing Rock Sioux Tribe lands.

While the tribe’s lawyers work to persuade a federal judge to withdraw permits for the pipeline in a ruling expected on Friday, thousands of protesters gathered at campgrounds near Standing Rock Sioux Tribe lands.

“This is a new beginning, not just for our tribe, but for all tribes in this country,” said Standing Rock Sioux spokesman Ron His Horse is Thunder, one of the leaders hoping for a rebirth of Native American activism beyond the pipeline battle.

“This is a new beginning, not just for our tribe, but for all tribes in this country,” said Standing Rock Sioux spokesman Ron His Horse is Thunder, one of the leaders hoping for a rebirth of Native American activism beyond the pipeline battle.Representatives of 200 tribes and environmentalists have set up camp in the rolling hills near the confluence of the Missouri and Cannon Ball rivers in

Representatives of 200 tribes and environmentalists have set up camp in the rolling hills near the confluence of the Missouri and Cannon Ball rivers in sight of the proposed pipeline route.They say the planned pipeline, near but not on tribal land, runs through a sacred burial ground and could leak, polluting nearby rivers and poisoning the tribe’s water source.

They say the planned pipeline, near but not on tribal land, runs through a sacred burial ground and could leak, polluting nearby rivers and poisoning the tribe’s water source.

The 1,100 mile (1,770 km), $3.7 billion Dakota Access pipeline would carry oil from just north of the tribe’s land in North Dakota to Illinois, where it would hook up to an existing pipeline and route crude directly to refineries in the U.S. Gulf Coast.Protesters have included actress Shailene Woodley and Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein, who authorities say is part of a group under investigation for illegally spray-painting construction equipment at the site.

Protesters have included actress Shailene Woodley and Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein, who authorities say is part of a group under investigation for illegally spray-painting construction equipment at the site.

“Our indigenous people have been warning for 500 years that the destruction of Mother Earth is going to come back and it’s going to harm us,” said David Archambault, tribal chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux. “Now our voices are getting louder.”On Tuesday, U.S. Judge James Boasberg granted in part the tribe’s request for a temporary restraining order to stop the

On Tuesday, U.S. Judge James Boasberg granted in part the tribe’s request for a temporary restraining order to stop the project, and said he would decide by Friday whether to grant the larger challenge to the pipeline, which would require the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to withdraw permits.Protesters were disappointed that the judge did not shut down construction altogether, but savored a small win when the group of companies building the pipeline, led by Dallas-based Energy Transfer Partners through its Dakota Access subsidiary, agreed to stop some work until the final ruling.

Protesters were disappointed that the judge did not shut down construction altogether, but savored a small win when the group of companies building the pipeline, led by Dallas-based Energy Transfer Partners through its DakotaAccess subsidiary, agreed to stop some work until the final ruling.

Access subsidiary, agreed to stop some work until the final ruling.
The pipeline was fast-tracked by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers earlier this year, but the project has been dogged by protests since April.It was envisioned as a safer way to transport highly flammable oil extracted from the Bakken Shale formation in North Dakota, Montana and parts of Canada than on trains.

It was envisioned as a safer way to transport highly flammable oil extracted from the Bakken Shale formation in North Dakota, Montana and parts of Canada than on trains.In June, a Union Pacific train carrying crude oil derailed and burst into flames in Oregon, forcing the evacuation of a school and the closure of a highway. In 2013, a runaway train in Canada crashed, killing 47 people and destroying buildings in the Quebec town of Lac-Megantic.

In June, a Union Pacific train carrying crude oil derailed and burst into flames in Oregon, forcing the evacuation of a school and the closure of a highway. In 2013, a runaway train in Canada crashed, killing 47 people and destroying buildings in the Quebec town of Lac-Megantic.

DIGGING IN FOR THE LONG HAUL

The Standing Rock Sioux Reservation is one of six reservations in the Dakotas that are all that remain of what was once the Great Sioux Reservation, which comprised all of South Dakota west of the Missouri River, including the Black Hills, which are considered sacred, according to the tribe’s website.The tribe has 15,000 members in the United States including as many as 8,000 in North and South Dakota. The reservation covers about 9,300 square miles (24,087 square km).

The tribe has 15,000 members in the United States including as many as 8,000 in North and South Dakota. The reservation covers about 9,300 square miles (24,087 square km).At campsites dotted with white tepees and colorful tents, many people prepared for the long haul.

At campsites dotted with white tepees and colorful tents, many people prepared for the long haul.”People are ready to stay through winter,” said Allyson Two Bears, who sits on the tribe’s emergency response team.

“People are ready to stay through winter,” said Allyson Two Bears, who sits on the tribe’s emergency response team.Members of an Ojibwe tribe are helping to erect lodges capable of withstanding North Dakota cold, and people from as far away as London and South Korea have joined the protest, signing their names to a map at the campsite.

Members of an Ojibwe tribe are helping to erect lodges capable of withstanding North Dakota cold, and people from as far away as London and South Korea have joined the protest, signing their names to a map at the campsite.The tribe has also enlisted the help of online petition website Change.org, which helped it gather more than 250,000 signatures on a petition to stop the pipeline. Youth members of the tribe aged 6 to 25 ran a relay race from North Dakota to Washington, D.C., to deliver the petitions.

The tribe has also enlisted the help of online petition website Change.org, which helped it gather more than 250,000 signatures on a petition to stop the pipeline. Youth members of the tribe aged 6 to 25 ran a relay race from North Dakota to Washington, D.C., to deliver the petitions.The protest and lawsuit by the Standing Rock Sioux are not the first efforts by Native American and environmental groups to stop or reroute planned pipelines through culturally or environmentally sensitive areas.

The protest and lawsuit by the Standing Rock Sioux are not the first efforts by Native American and environmental groups to stop or reroute planned pipelines through culturally or environmentally sensitive areas.Aboriginal Canadian and Native American groups have opposed the Keystone XL Pipeline from Canada to Nebraska, along with other pipeline projects.

Aboriginal Canadian and Native American groups have opposed the Keystone XL Pipeline from Canada to Nebraska, along with other pipeline projects.
Republican presidential contender Donald Trump has said he would approve TransCanada Corp’s Keystone XL pipeline proposal if elected, reversing a decision by the administration of President Barack Obama to block it over environmental concerns. TransCanada has sued the U.S government to reverse Obama’s rejection of the pipeline.The Standing Rock Sioux have hired a political campaign director to publicize their actions to stop the North Dakota pipeline.

The Standing Rock Sioux have hired a political campaign director to publicize their actions to stop the North Dakota pipeline.”They’ve been making really good use of social media as part of this and that has actually changed the way Native American activism takes place,” said Katherine Hayes, chair of American Indian Studies at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis/St. Paul.

“They’ve been making really good use of social media as part of this and that has actually changed the way Native American activism takes place,” said Katherine Hayes, chair of American Indian Studies at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis/St. Paul.The Standing Rock Sioux sued in July. Last month, celebrity activists joined about 100 members of the tribe outside a Washington, D.C., courthouse where hearings were being held, while others demonstrated in North Dakota.

The Standing Rock Sioux sued in July. Last month, celebrity activists joined about 100 members of the tribe outside a Washington, D.C., courthouse where hearings were being held, while others demonstrated in North Dakota.Over the weekend of Sept. 3, protesters broke through a wire fence in an attempt to chase bulldozers grading the land. They were met by pipeline security staff and guard dogs.

Over the weekend of Sept. 3, protesters broke through a wire fence in an attempt to chase bulldozers grading the land. They were met by pipeline security staff and guard dogs.Actress Susan Sarandon, who joined the Washington protest, said she was there to help publicize the tribe’s cause.

Actress Susan Sarandon, who joined the Washington protest, said she was there to help publicize the tribe’s cause.”These kinds of things happen when people don’t have a voice,” Sarandon said, referring to the government’s decision to fast-track the project. “We have to give them a voice.”

“These kinds of things happen when people don’t have a voice,” Sarandon said, referring to the government’s decision to fast-track the project. “We have to give them a voice.”

Images from the protest site, by Reuters

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Study finds contaminants, elevated fish tumors in 3 Wisconsin rivers

Researchers have found elevated numbers of tumors in fish in the Milwaukee, Menomonee and Kinnickinnic rivers, suggesting that efforts to remove carcinogenic contaminants from the three waterways have been unsuccessful.

The study, which was led by the U.S. Geological Survey, found elevated skin and liver tumors in white suckers. It also found that some male white suckers sampled for the study had testicular tumors.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that the finding surprised researchers, because those tumors had not often been found in other cleanup projects of polluted rivers.

The study, published in the Journal of Fish Diseases, said the exact cause of the tumors isn’t known. But previous research has suggested that exposure to contaminants called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons can cause liver tumors in fish.

PAH pollution in the water can come from contaminant runoff from a number of sources, including power plants, industrial processes and vehicles. In humans, exposure to PAHs has been linked to cardiovascular disease and poor fetal development.

The study comes at a time when the state’s Republican leaders have rolled back clean-water regulations. They’ve also joined dozens of other GOP-controlled states in suing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers to block federal laws aimed to prevent further degradation of water quality.

Gov. Scott Walker has politicized the Department of Natural Resources, firing many of its scientists and making it clear that business interests must be prioritized over maintaining clean water standards. In mid-May, Republican Attorney General Brad Schimel ruled that environmental officials at the DNR cannot make decisions about high-capacity wells in order to prevent contaminants from spreading to local water supplies — not if large factory farms disagree with those decisions.

Aversion to conservation laws has led to a drastic reduction in the enforcement of the state’s increasingly lax water pollution standards.

Wisconsin voters, however, are concerned about pollution in lakes and streams, contamination of drinking water supplies and depleted aquifers. The fight to preserve clean water in the state is becoming a major issue in this year’s elections, including in the race between Republican U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson and former Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold.

See also:

Failure at the faucet

DNR concedes it can’t monitor wells to protect state’s water

 

Sioux tribe sues Army Corps over Bakken pipeline project

The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe sued the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, claiming a violation of the National Historic Preservation Act after the agency issued permits for a massive crude oil pipeline stretching from North Dakota to Illinois.

The complaint, filed in federal court in Washington D.C., by Earthjustice, says the Corps dismissed tribal concerns and ignored the pipeline’s impacts to sacred sites and culturally important landscapes.

The Dakota Access Pipeline project, also known as Bakken Oil Pipeline, would extend 1,168 miles across North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, and Illinois, crossing through communities, farms, tribal land, sensitive natural areas and wildlife habitat.

The pipeline would carry crude oil from the Bakken oil fields in North Dakota to Illinois where it will link with another pipeline that will transport the oil to terminals and refineries along the Gulf of Mexico.

The pipeline would travel through the tribe’s ancestral lands and pass within a half mile of the reservation.

The permit allows for the digging of the pipeline under the Missouri River just upstream of the reservation and the tribe’s drinking water supply.

An oil spill at this site would threaten the tribe’s culture and way of life, the plaintiffs claim.

“The corps puts our water and the lives and livelihoods of many in jeopardy,” said Dave Archambault II, chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, based in Fort Yates, North Dakota. “We have laws that require federal agencies to consider environmental risks and protection of Indian historic and sacred sites. But the Army Corps has ignored all those laws and fast-tracked this massive project just to meet the pipeline’s aggressive construction schedule.”

“There have been shopping malls that have received more environmental review and Tribal consultation than this massive crude oil pipeline,” added Jan Hasselman, an Earthjustice attorney representing the tribe in the litigation. “Pipelines spill and leak — it’s not a matter of if, but when. Construction will destroy sacred and historically significant sites. We need to take a time out and ensure that the Corps follows the law before rushing ahead with permits.”

Despite objections by the Standing Rock Sioux and other organizations, construction of the pipeline has begun.

The Standing Rock Sioux have led a national campaign to draw attention to the pipeline.

The tribe has launched an international campaign, called Rezpect our Water, asking the Army Corps to deny the key permits for the pipeline.

In late July, tribal youth were running from North Dakota to Washington D.C., to deliver the 140,000 petition signatures to the Army Corps.

Bird advocates oppose Army Corps plan to kill 16,000 cormorants

An environmental group is raising multiple objections to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ proposal to kill 16,000 cormorant birds on East Sand Island in the Columbia River Estuary.

The government agency’s plan is to reduce predation of juvenile salmonids including salmon smolt by the birds.
 
The Army Corps plan to kill the double-crested cormorants over four years was outlined in a draft Environmental Impact Statement.

The conclusions reached in the impact statement prompted the American Bird Conservancy to object this month in a 23-page letter to Sondra Ruckwardt at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Portland District Office.
 
According to ABC’s expert, Dr. George Wallace, who wrote the comments and who is also the organization’s vice president for oceans and islands, “We have deep concerns… .The determination that the breeding population on ESI must be reduced to approximately 5,600 breeding pairs is not based on any rigorous or peer-reviewed analysis.”


About 15,000 pairs of double-crested cormorants nest on ESI. Adult cormorants are large, brownish-black birds with a small pouch of yellow-orange skin on the throat. ABC says the island provides excellent breeding habitat for the birds and a base from which to depart in search of small fish, which they capture in hooked beaks while diving into water.

ABC asserts that the lethal approach recommended by the Corps is offered “…without adequate justification and explanation of why the same result cannot be achieved through non-lethal methods.”

ABC says that the expected benefits to salmon hinge not in how cormorant numbers are controlled (through harassment or lethal control), but in the habitat modification that must occur to maintain the breeding DCCO population at the Corps’ target of 5,600 breeding pairs.
 
Furthermore, ABC says the recommended alternative would reduce the entire western cormorant population by approximately 25 percent. It is not clear if permits issued under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act for this type of action can be legally used to reduce an entire regional population of a protected species.

ABC says further that the MBTA requires that permits for lethal control not be issued until it has been demonstrated that non-lethal methods are ineffective.
 
“Even then, lethal control cannot be the sole method of control and must be used in concert with non-lethal methods. We question the legality of issuing a depredation permit that apparently violates basic operating tenants of the MBTA,” Wallace said.

ABC also charged the Corps with misinterpreting scientific data to make its case.