Pipelines, Protest, and Property

Pipelines, Protest, and Property

Source: Great Plains Research, 2017

Author(s): Jessica A. Shoemaker

Countries: United States

Topics: Assessment, Extractive Resources, Land

Added: 13/11/2017


At the end of 2016, more than 2.7 million miles of pipe carrying natural gas, crude oil, and other hazardous liquids crisscrossed the United States (PHMSA 2017). Most of these pipelines were built without major confl ict. Th ey required numerous government approvals and many, many property transfers of private rights- ofway to pipeline developers. Th ese pipelines contribute to critical infrastructure for energy transmission and distribution, and pipeline proponents have declared the safety and effi ciency of pipelines as compared to rail, highway, or other alternatives means of transport. Developers also cite a boost to local economies from new pipeline construction.

Meanwhile, technological changes in oil and gas production are creating new infrastructure demands as emerging production centers— largely in the northern Great Plains— need new pathways for transport (Klass and Meinhardt 2015). Now, this relatively confl ict- free pattern of pipeline development seems to be changing. Two recent oil pipeline projects in the Great Plains— the Keystone XL Pipeline, intended to transport oil from Alberta to Nebraska, and the Dakota Access Pipeline (“DAPL”), currently operating between North Dakota and Illinois— have sparked unprecedented protests and resistance.


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