A Tale of Two Pipelines: This Week in the News

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It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…for two pipeline projects in the West.

TransCanada was successful in the Tenth Circuit on Thursday in its continuing efforts to defend against a preliminary injunction brought by the Sierra Club, Clean Energy Future of Oklahoma, and the East Texas Sub Regional Planning Commission. The injunction was previously filed at the lower court to stop work on the Keystone XL pipeline in Oklahoma, but the request was rejected. The Sierra Club and others appealed to the Tenth Circuit, stating that the lower court abused its discretion in denying their request. The Keystone XL pipeline will begin in Canada, crossing Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, and ending in Texas, allowing for the import of tar sands oil from Canada to the United States.

The Tenth Circuit determined that the economic harm of halting TransCanada’s construction efforts far outweighed the potential environmental effects of the pipeline - upwards of hundreds of thousands of dollars a day. Judge William J. Martinez argued in his dissent that the trial court did not adequately assess the likely outcome of litigation and whether the Sierra Club and others ultimately would win their battle against the against regulators.

The pipeline’s construction is ongoing, despite litigation.

However, moving two time zones west from Oklahoma to Clatsop County, Oregon, a proposed pipeline project suffered a setback this past Wednesday. The Clatsop County Commissioners unanimously voted to reject Oregon LNG and the Oregon Pipeline Company’s application to build a feeder pipeline across the county in order to move liquefied natural gas to a terminal facility that would export the product to foreign buyers. The planned location of the terminal facility is Warrenton, Oregon, and will stretch over 86 miles of Oregon land, measuring at 36-inches in diameter.

Presently, the LNG facility and pipeline is under review by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, and will require numerous other state approvals and permits to move forward. Should FERC or even the state of Oregon grant applicable permits, those challenging the LNG facility and pipeline’s construction will likely face arguments that the state and federal approvals preempt the local level zoning ordinances.