Pipeline protests work: After delays, Sandpiper Pipeline goes under with cheap oil prices

No it’s not the contested Dakota Access Pipeline, but on Thursday another major pipeline that would’ve transported crude oil from the Bakken Fields of North Dakota was effectively killed.

Enbridge Inc, Canada’s largest pipeline company, said it was dropping efforts to get regulatory approvals for the long-delayed $2.6 billion Sandpiper Pipeline with would have traveled over 600 miles to Wisconsin. The company cited market conditions and low crude oil production in North Dakota as reasons for the move. They left the door open to revisiting the project, but not for at least five years. The pipeline would have have carried 375,000 barrels per day to Superior, WI.

With crude oil prices having fallen off significantly since the peak of the U.S. shale boom several years ago, North Dakota crude production has stalled. In June, the state’s oil production dropped to its lowest level in two years.

Environmentalists and Native American tribes long protested the pipeline, first proposed three years ago, causing it a number of delays. It was originally scheduled to go into service this year.

Richard Smith, president of Friends of the Headwaters, told Minnesota Public Radio he was thrilled with Enbridge’s decision.

“We always thought it was a bad idea for them to put a Bakken oil pipeline through Minnesota’s headwaters lake country,” he said. “And they finally acknowledged that.”

Enbridge operates some 50,000 miles of pipelines across the continent. According to a report from the National Wildlife Federation, leaks in the company’s pipe network caused more than 800 oil spills between 1999 and 2010.

Map of the proposed Sandpiper route.Enbridge

Map of the proposed Sandpiper route.

According to Minnesota Public Radio:

The proposal ran into stiff resistance from environmental groups and Native American tribes, who objected to the proposed route across a swath of northern Minnesota rich in sensitive lakes and rivers, including the headwaters of the Mississippi River, where they argued a potential spill could be catastrophic.

Opponents proposed several alternate routes, and the Minnesota Court of Appeals ruled last year that an environmental impact statement had to be completed on the project before it could proceed.

The timing of the announcement coincides with unprecedented protests against another midwestern oil pipeline, the Dakota Access Pipeline. The pipeline crosses through sacred Native American grounds and threatens valuable water sources, including the Missouri River, with spills and contamination.

Enbridge is banking on the successful completion of the Dakota Access Pipeline, having invested $1.5 billion in it and another pipeline that run from North Dakota to Illinois and eventually to refineries along the Gulf Coast.