Obama Administation Approves Canadian Pipeline, But Not The One You’re Thinking Of

The Obama administration has approved a permit to build an 80-mile-long leg of the Vantage Pipeline in North Dakota. The completed pipeline will be 430 miles long and will carry up to 60,000 barrels per day (bpd) of ethane natural gas from Tioga, North Dakota, through Saskatchewan, to facilities in Empress, Alberta, Canada.

In reacting to the approval, North Dakota Senator John Hoeven noted the irony in this cross-border Canadian pipeline getting approval in three years while it’s taken five years (and counting) to get approval for the Keystone pipeline.

“Ironically Keystone XL pipeline gets all the attention because we’ve been working on it for five years, but today we got approval for the Vantage pipeline which we’ve been working on for three years,” he said. “This is a big deal, it will help reduce flaring and get value for our natural gas.”

North Dakota Rep. Kevin Cramer echoed Hoeven’s comments in a press release: “It is good to see President Obama and the State Department recognizing the value of applying free trade to our vast energy and industrial resources, and we can only hope they will apply this logic to other projects including Keystone XL.”

Of course, the Keystone pipeline has the same sort of value. It would reduce the burden on rail and over-the-road shipments of oil. That’s important given the traffic problems here in North Dakota, and pipelines are inherently safer than both road and rail as we were reminded of by the recent and tragic derailment of a train carrying North Dakota oil in Quebec.

But the Keystone pipeline would also open up new markets for North Dakota oil, increasing the value of oil here to the benefit of the state’s economy.

The approval of the Vantage pipeline shows that the delays in approval for the Keystone pipeline, which really isn’t all that different a project, are based in politics than reasonable regulatory concerns.

Everybody knows about the Keystone project. The Vantage pipeline was less-known, and so not nearly as valuable as a political symbol to President Obama.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com. In 2011 he was a finalist for the Watch Dog of the Year from the Sam Adams Alliance and winner of the Americans For Prosperity Award for Online Excellence. In 2013 the Washington Post named SAB one of the nation's top state-based political blogs, and named Rob one of the state's best political reporters. He writes a weekly column for several North Dakota newspapers, and also serves as a policy fellow for the North Dakota Policy Council.

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