Borehole Opposition Continues; Dakota Access Pipeline Signs Final SD Land Easement

Citizens gathered for another informational meeting on the Deep Borehole Field Test in Redfield last night. I’m searching for first-person accounts online, but prior online press indicates that Spink County residents from distinguished former governor Harvey Wollman on down strongly oppose allowing this project to take place in their county.

Meanwhile, Dakota Access LLC announces that every South Dakota landowner along the route of its proposed Bakken oil pipeline has signed an easement to allow the project to proceed:

Six months after the project was approved by the Public Utilities Commission, Dakota Access LLC has inked its last voluntary easements with landowners along the 272 miles of South Dakota land it needs to build its underground pipeline.

The company announced this week that 100 percent of the landowners in both North and South Dakota had signed easements without a legal fight. In Illinois, the voluntary easement figure is 98 percent. In Iowa, it’s 87 percent [John Hult, “Dakota Access Gets 100 Percent Compliance in South Dakota,” that Sioux Falls paper, 2016.05.11].

We should put “voluntary” in mock quotes:

The 100 percent figure in South Dakota means landowners Peggy Hoogestraat, who marched against Dakota Access and was sued by the company before the Public Utilities Commission hearing on the matter even began, have agreed to let the pipeline cross their property.

The vast majority of easements were signed long before the PUC hearing, but there were plenty of holdouts who’d hoped to see the project shot down.

Hoogestraat said Wednesday that she hadn’t yet heard the news about easements, but she said she understands how it happened. Even the project’s most vociferous opponents knew that PUC approval would leave them with little recourse but to sign voluntary easements or risk an expensive legal battle.

“Financially, I couldn’t afford to fight the big pipeline company,” Hoogestraat said [Hult, 2016.05.11].

Let’s compare:

The Department of Energy and Battelle Memorial Institute want to drill two holes, one 8.5 inches across, the second 17 inches across, both 3.1 miles deep, do some scientific tests, then fill them back up with clay and cement. The DOE/Battelle contract (now available online, thanks to Donald Pay’s diligent work!) says no radioactive waste may be dumped in these two holes (see p. 6 and p. 32). From every public indication, the Department of Energy has said it will use consent-based siting: if the community opposes having the Deep Borehole Field Test in its backyard, DOE will tell Battelle to take the project elsewhere. No one in the project has said anything about using emeinent domain to force anyone to surrender land for the Borehole project. Yet the suspicion that everyone involved with the project is lying and that the government plans to throw nuclear waste down those holes once they are drilled as led to widespread and vocal opposition to the project.

Dakota Access pipeline route through South Dakota
Dakota Access pipeline route through South Dakota

Dakota Access plans to run a 30-inch pipeline under 272 miles of South Dakota’s best farmland, including Spink County. They will place a pumping station seven miles south of Redfield. They have secured easements from landowners by threatening them with eminent domain. The Dakota Access pipeline will imperil our farmland and groundwater with 450,000 to 570,000 barrels of toxic material every day. The Spink County Commission and numerous landowners have pretty much shrugged. Public meetings in Bowdle, Redfield, and Iroquois in January 2015 brought little adamant opposition and more questions about safety procedures and when landowners would get paid.

South Dakota landowners are being inconvenienced by an oil pipeline leak right now. The environmental risk of the Dakota Access oil pipeline as proposed is real, significant, and greater than the potential environmental risk of the Deep Borehole Field Test not as proposed but only as imaginable if we discount numerous public statements from project officials, laws, and federal regulations.

I will not go as far as to condemn opposition to the Deep Borehole Field Test. But I will say that if your dander is up about digging two skinny science holes in the Spink County bedrock, you should be freaking out over an oil company strong-arming South Dakotans into surrendering their land for an oil pipeline.

13 Responses to Borehole Opposition Continues; Dakota Access Pipeline Signs Final SD Land Easement

  1. Paul Seamans

    The grassroots people and tribal council and chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe have not given up on stopping the Dakota Access. They, and allies, are asking for a full Environmental Impact Statement on the Dakota Access pipeline. Energy Transfer Partners has not consulted with the SRST as required by federal law. The DAPL needs a permit to cross the Missouri River about one mile north of Cannonball ND. Lake Oahe is still pretty wide at this point.

    Over 60% of South Dakota’s population gets their drinking water from the Missouri through rural water systems, including the Sioux Falls metro area. A major spill into the Missouri River could affect many South Dakotans, including me. I get my water through the massive Mni Wiconi system. I have no other source of water if this water were to become unusable. Mni Wiconi is Lakota for “Water is life”. Don’t anyone tell me that a leak won’t happen, just look to the Freeman spill on the Keystone 1 after being in operation only six years.

  2. The are many tinfoil hats stirred up about The Borehole. The Harv has always been a bit of a Luddite but this is all about the science and not the government trying to slip a radioactive Mickey into the bowels of Spink county.

  3. Robert McTaggart

    If you are really interested in reducing or eliminating the need for projects like Keystone, then you only need to look at the impact of natural gas on coal. Natural gas emits half the carbon that coal does, but it is currently a cheaper alternative. I think this year is the cross-over point where we burn more natural gas than coal for our electricity.

    Thus you need an alternative to gasoline that would emit less carbon and be cheaper. Ultimatums haven’t worked, but competition from a better alternative can. If transportation were electrified, that would reduce the carbon we emit IF the power sources that recharge our electric vehicles do not emit carbon.

    Biofuels may help if we could overcome the lignocellulosic barriers to generating much larger volumes, and maybe hybrids that burn biofuels and can be recharged are an option. Still, you would need a whole lot of electricity (especially with no liquid fuels), which means you will still need nuclear in the mix. Disposal of those wastes (which are NOT coming here in this study), would follow similar consent-based methods. Pipelines are not following the same consent-based approaches that nuclear is trying to do.

  4. mike from iowa

    Meanwhile, Dakota Access LLC announces that every South Dakota landowner along the route of its proposed Bakken oil pipeline has signed an easement to allow the project to proceed:

    Folks in NW iowa have complained that DA has lied to them regularly-saying neighbors had signed easements when that wasn’t the case.

    Of course,iowa has okayed the project. If it comes up for a vote, I vote no freaking way! It will run through my county-Obrien( west of me) and Cherokee co where I was hatched out.

  5. Donald Pay

    I look at these two projects as an indication of how far out of whack our nation’s priorities are, and how stacked “the system” is against people. For all of DOE’s talk of consent-based siting, their is no such thing, really. Public statements by officials and even rules and regulations don’t assure anyone of anything, whether it’s a pipeline or a borehole disposal “test.” Look how fast they “amended” a signed contract, which supposedly allows Battelle to move their borehole project from North Dakota to South Dakota and have completely different partners. Did anyone in South Dakota get any public notice about that?

  6. Robert McTaggart

    Public consent does require the engagement of and participation by the public. It is not a static entity. I haven’t heard any discussion about what processes need to exist for on-going advisement and oversight for consent-based activities. I would argue that environmental monitoring be one of those activities that shares data with the public.

    I still don’t see why DOE is going to pay North Dakota if the borehole isn’t going there. I’m no lawyer, but I would think that would be covered somewhere…this contract, federal law, etc.

  7. Donald Pay

    DOE’s cover letter to the first modification is interesting, in that it provides for the contractor (Battelle Memorial Institute) to claim proprietary its submissions under the RFP. And then the Modification itself states that the new site (in SD) shall be determined by April 25, 2016, so that DOE can then negotiate with the landowner (I assume), to acquire the property. The DOE seeks the property for 5 years with a possible additional 5 years, as I understand it. Of course, nothing prevents DOE from seeking additional land, either from the landowner of from other land owners.

  8. Robert McTaggart

    If they find something interesting down there, or are making good progress on their studies and valuable input for evaluating this method, then another 5 years would be warranted. That is not uncommon for federal grants, but the extra 5 years would need to be justified.

    With regard to seeking additional land, they can seek additional land, but that doesn’t mean that they will get it. I would assume that eminent domain is not possible for science projects.

  9. mike from iowa

    If they make good progress,wouldn’t that call for less time,not more?

  10. Robin Friday

    Right, Paul Seamans, that’s what I mean. They tell us about these things when they’re already in the bag. And then they say, well, there was plenty of opportunity for public participation and consent.

  11. Robin Friday

    Robert, when “environmental monitoring” has to take place, it’s already too late. Yes, it’s necessary, but not sufficient. When environmental monitoring has to be depended upon and turns up something nasty and well-nigh uncontrollable, it’s too late. We’ve seen that with Keystone.

  12. Robin Friday

    And we’ve seen it with fracking and mountain-top removal mining and a dozen other environmental catastrophes in our beautiful country alone.

  13. Paul Seamans

    We have been lied to so many times by our South Dakota leadership and by big corporations that we will not believe any of their promises. I don’t care whether they put it in writing or not.

    I am as interested in geology as the next person but I guess that I will survive without knowing the characteristics of the rock three miles below my feet.