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US District Court Orders Dakota Access Pipeline Shut and Emptied

It never ceases to astound me that the most basic rules for carrying out such projects can be ignored. 

https://pubs.spe.org/en/jpt/jpt-article-detail/?art=7305&utm_source=newsletter-jpt&utm_medium=email-content&utm_campaign=JPT&utm_content=newsletter%20article&mkt_tok=eyJpIjoiTmpOaFlqRmtNVE5sTlRReSIsInQiOiJlRnJMTjluT3RhS1pUdUMzaDBybVhHa0tWMUQyek9SSFF4QVRzdklpNTdmakdRUmNmTm1iYXFqa3h5d21LXC9pZ0xTV1FSb251c1l4RHNNYkMzc014TkxmUWJ1XC9HbnJnWHBrbFVDSDA4OVJDcmNTUEQ3NWhvSjlDYUw1cHdWcEx2In0%3D

The US District Court for the District of Columbia ruled in favor of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, finding that the US Army Corps of Engineers violated the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) when it granted an easement to Energy Transfer’s Dakota Access to construct and operate a segment of that oil pipeline running beneath Lake Oahe, a large reservoir lying behind a dam on the Missouri River and stretching between North and South Dakota.

The court said this was because the Corps failed to produce a full environmental impact statement (EIS) as ordered on 25 March.

We live in an era in which rules, in the form of law, can simply be ignored by companies and government agencies. It is so egregious that I have to wonder if there is much more to this story.  Does anyone have additional relevant information?

Mark Silverstone's picture

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Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Jul 8, 2020 2:50 pm GMT

Mark, I don't have any additional information. But in this case, the law couldn't simply be ignored - Energy Transfer Partners, LLC got busted. Of course it will be appealed. If ETP loses its appeal, the partnership will petition for the case to be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Or maybe not. Chief Justice John Roberts, once a conservative stalwart, has been disappointing business interests with his nonpartisan, thoughtful support of issues which take all parties into consideration - the people who might be harmed by business-as-usual. A SCOTUS defeat for ETP would have huge implications for oil, gas, solar, and wind interests as well.

Solar and wind interests? Yes, because nuclear plants have been closed across the country without first obtaining Environmental Impact Reports (EIRs) too, and replacing/preventing/vexatiously-litigating nuclear plants has been the renewables and gas industries' M.O. from the start.

Though renewables have cozied up with gas (and vice versa) for the big-money influence they bring to the table, their cozy relationship and greed may mean their undoing. Let's hope justice is served - it can't happen soon enough.

Mark Silverstone's picture
Mark Silverstone on Jul 9, 2020 6:25 pm GMT

Re: Vermont Yankee Decommissioning EIA:  Google "Vermont Yankee Post Shutdown Decommissioning ... - NRC", Section 5.  "Vexatiously"? Gimme a break! Or do you think Entergy should be paid to operate at a loss, or make the ratepayers keep the dinosaur running?  And no, GHG emissions for power generation did not go up in Vermont in the years since the 2014 shutdown. Overall ghg emissions have gone down.

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Jul 10, 2020 5:38 pm GMT

Mark, I'm not going to "google" the links for your sources. That's your job.

"Or do you think Entergy should be paid to operate at a loss,..."

If Entergy was operating the plant at a loss, why did it sue the state to keep Vermont Yankee open?

"The groups, which included nuclear scientists, members of the Nuclear Energy Institute, the Washington Legal Foundation and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, all agreed that the license extension granted to Vermont Yankee by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission should be upheld and the plant should be allowed to continue to operate."

U.S. Chamber of Commerce and others join Entergy in lawsuit against Vt

    "[Or do you think Entergy should] make the ratepayers keep the dinosaur running?"

    Yes I do, because customers are paying higher rates to shut "the dinosaur" down (Vermont now has the fifth most-expensive electricity in the country).

    "And no, GHG emissions for power generation did not go up in Vermont in the years since the 2014 shutdown"

    And yes, they did. After this article came out:

    New England CO2 emissions spike after Vermont Yankee nuclear closure

    Green Mountain Power had a problem: how to launder their dirty electricity? First, they outsourced 60% of their generation to Canada and ISO-NE (doesn't count if they emit carbon elsewhere, right?). Then, they took all their hydro/renewable generation and doubled its value, on paper, using the scam of "Renewable Energy Credits":

    "Vermont utilities actually count toward their renewable requirements does not always align with the actual sources of power for their customers, due to a renewable credit trade scheme that is perfectly legal.

    "Critics say Vermont’s renewable energy standard encourages utilities to buy cheap renewable energy certificates, or RECs, from out of state that wouldn’t meet renewable requirements elsewhere.

    "That means companies can tout in-state energy generation projects like wind and solar, sell the renewable “credits” to other states, then purchase cheaper credits from out-of-state projects like hydropower, and still count it toward their renewable targets.

    "So although Vermont is leading the way on some renewable indicators, the numbers don’t tell the full story."

    Renewable energy trade scheme comes under scrutiny


    Above: chopping down trees and using "natural gas" (methane) to light them on fire is what Green Mountain Power calls "biomass"

     

     

    Mark Silverstone's picture
    Mark Silverstone on Jul 13, 2020 7:49 pm GMT

    Look, I´ll try to make this simple.

    In the end:

    Vermont Yankee was simply superfluous.

    I am really not against nukes in some places in 2020. In 2021, not so sure.  Perhaps it´s necessary for the time being.  Take heart! SMR´s might be the ticket in 2030.  I really don´t know.

    Take a look at Vermont`s in-state power generation before and after Vermont Yankee closed:
    Take a good look. You can hardly see it.  It´s the little smudge on the bottom.  Even you have to ask:  Why the heck did Vermont ever need a nuke?  Well, it seemed like a good business idea 50 years ago.  But it did not turn out that way.

    Still don´t get it?

    Do you see where Vermont is ranked among states and DC in terms of CO2 emissions from electricity? Yes, 51st.  The lowest. How about use of electricity? 51st again.

    More:

    https://www.eia.gov/environment/emissions/state/

    Table 2. State energy-related carbon dioxide emissions by year, adjusted (1990–2017)

    Right in the middle you will see Vermont´s emissions in 2004. The highest between 1990 and 2017. Right in the middle of the nuke era in Vermont.  Vermont Yankee closed in December, 2014. Perhaps more notable, try to get a little perspective: The peak in 2004 was about 7 million metric tons of energy related carbon dioxide. California had 384.9 million metric tons of energy related carbon dioxide emissions in 2004.

    Little as it was, it was actually more during the nuke era than after. Maybe it was the Entergy bosses driving to work in Hummers.

    Still don´t get it?

    How about this:

    https://www.eia.gov/beta/states/states/vt/overview

    What do you see here? 

    OK, New England´s total emissions have increased. Why? In small part from coal burning in New Hampshire (They love their coal plant. Don´t ask me why. They certainly don´t need it. But that´s NH).  And more from transportation. Again, just for some perspective:  Vermont in 2017: 5.8  million metric tons of energy related carbon dioxide emissions. California in 2017: 358.6. (Texas was higher.)

    Try to keep up here.

    Mind you, I never said that there is no place for nukes anywhere in 2020.  Quite the contrary. Seabrook has even sold the odd watt to Vermont.

    I repeat the point: Vermont Yankee was simply superfluous. Even Entergy finally realized that.  It happens. Get over it. And get used to it. It will not be the last.

     

    Bob Meinetz's picture
    Bob Meinetz on Jul 13, 2020 10:11 pm GMT

    Look, if your goal was to make things simple, why is your explanation longer than mine?

    "Why the heck did Vermont ever need a nuke?  Well, it seemed like a good business idea 50 years ago.  But it did not turn out that way."

    Vermont Yankee was an excellent business decision, generating 2/3 of Vermont's electricity without any carbon emissions in 1973, without coal or gas backup, before the phrase climate change even existed.

    "Little as it was, it was actually more during the nuke era than after...still don´t get it?"

    Oh, I get it. I get that you're ignoring the 750,000-ton spike in CO2 emissions after VY closed on your graph above. I get that you're trying to confuse electricity generated in Vermont with electricity consumed in Vermont:

    Do you see where Vermont is ranked among states and DC in terms of CO2 emissions from electricity? Yes, 51st.

    No, that's Vermont's in-state generation, not consumption. Vermont now imports 60% of its electricity, effectively outsourcing 60% of its emissions. And of all of Vermont's renewable consumption, 55% comes from clear-cutting forests and burning the chips.


    Welcome to Vermont, where there's unlimited forest to burn!

    These are the shell games renewables advocates play to to make dirty electricity look clean, to buy time for fossil fuel interests as they finish destroying the planet.

    Matt Chester's picture
    Matt Chester on Jul 14, 2020 10:46 am GMT

    No, that's Vermont's in-state generation, not consumption. Vermont now imports 60% of its electricity, effectively outsourcing 60% of its emissions

    I can't find a source at the moment, but isn't a large portion of the electricity imports into Vermont from neighboring hydropower? I would venture that VT's imports are still less carbon intensive than the average U.S. grid, for what it's worth

    Mark Silverstone's picture
    Mark Silverstone on Jul 14, 2020 8:44 pm GMT

    Most of it comes from Ontario.  But, it is limited by the infrastructure for importing.  Additional utility line infrastructure is in progress, directly to both Vermont and Maine. That is why it makes sense, at least for New England as a whole,  and despite the expense, to keep Seabrook Nuclear running for a few more years. And what is wrong with buying renewable power from Canada?

    https://www.eia.gov/state/analysis.php?sid=VT

    "Vermont's in-state electricity generation comes almost entirely from renewable resources, and about three-fifths of it is hydroelectric power. However, the largest share of electricity consumed in Vermont is from hydroelectric generators in Canada."

    And btw: If Vermont were not managing its forests in a sustainable way, they would have been gone long ago.  In fact, there is more forested land in Vermont now than in 1860.  

    It is slanderous to suggest that it is other than sustainable.  I do object to the characterization above.  It suggests what? Perhaps that Vermont cuts down forests and pours concrete all over?

    FORESTS IN THE GREEN MOUNTAIN STATE: A HALF-CENTURY OF CHANGE (United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service Northeastern Research Station NE-INF-142-01)

    Forests dominate Vermont’s landscape, covering 4.6 million acres or 78.2 percent of the State. There is 2
    percent more forest area than in 1983 and 24 percent more forests than in 1948. Vermont was not always
    heavily forested. Early settlers cleared nearly two-thirds of the original forest for agriculture. The amount of
    acreage farmed peaked around the middle of the 19th century, and then began a long decline that has continued
    to this day. Forests have reclaimed much of the abandoned land.

     If you don´t cut some of it, or farm it properly,  it will burn via forest fires. This is called forest management

    The US needs more of that.  And if you think there are lots of trees in Vermont, you should see Maine! 

    Matt Chester's picture
    Matt Chester on Jul 8, 2020 4:33 pm GMT

    It's amazing how much the pipeline stories of the past week are making little more than a ripple in the mainstream media (outside of circles like Energy Central where of course we're all tracking)-- but it certainly seems like another example in the trend of rules only mattering when there are consequences, and the slow realization that some checks and balances responsible for those consequences can be overrun. Will be compelling to watch, for sure!

    The Energy  Mix's picture
    The Energy Mix on Jul 8, 2020 5:16 pm GMT

    Mark, along the lines of Bob's opening comment -- it brings to mind an old-school British copper yelling, "yer nicked!" -- the judge in the DAPL case essentially said he was mindful of the inconvenience, but that ETP mostly knew what risk it was running. It sounded very much like he was calling their bluff. Here's our coverage from this morning's digest:
    https://theenergymix.com/2020/07/07/three-projects-three-wins-flurry-of-decisions-shows-u-s-pipelines-becoming-unbuildable/

    Bob Meinetz's picture
    Bob Meinetz on Jul 15, 2020 2:19 am GMT

    "And btw: If Vermont were not managing its forests in a sustainable way, they would have been gone long ago.  In fact, there is more forested land in Vermont now than in 1860. 

    It is slanderous to suggest that it is other than sustainable.  I do object to the characterization above.  It suggests what? Perhaps that Vermont cuts down forests and pours concrete all over?"

    Mark - you believe it's "slanderous" to suggest biomass isn't sustainable? Then your righteous indignation shouldn't be addressed to me,  but to every major environmental organization in the world. What Vermont is doing isn't as bad as coal - it's worse.

    The Natural Resources Defense Council:

    "Per unit of energy, all existing biomass power plants emit more CO2 from their smokestacks than coal plants. Thus, the inevitable initial impact of replacing coal with forest biomass in power stations is to increase CO2 levels in the atmosphere. On the landscape, replacing older trees with saplings reduces the amount of carbon stored in the forest, even under the best-case scenario in which trees are replanted immediately and kept intact. Taken together, this means it can take anywhere from decades to over a century for biomass energy systems to begin to deliver any climate benefits whatsoever.

    The worst impacts on the climate come when biomass-fueled power plants burn whole trees. But even when biomass energy is generated by burning genuine forestry residues, the result is still more climate pollution for decades. Thus, any climate benefits that come with burning forest biomass are a) highly theoretical; and b) come far outside critical timeframes for dramatically cutting emissions and averting climate disaster."

    How the Biomass Industry Sent "Sustainability" Up in Smoke

    Mark Silverstone's picture
    Mark Silverstone on Jul 15, 2020 7:10 pm GMT

    Biology is not your forté.

    Try to learn a bit about photosynthesis.

    You may want to start here:

    https://www.eia.gov/energyexplained/biomass/biomass-and-the-environment.php

    "Using wood, wood pellets, and charcoal for heating and cooking can replace fossil fuels and may result in lower CO2 emissions overall. Wood can be harvested from forests, from woodlots that have to be thinned, or from urban trees that fall down or have to be cut down."

    Vermonters know how to manage near complete combustion in order to minimize emissions of toxic gases.  They maximize the amount of carbon tied up in trees. But, there are limits to how much of the state can be covered with trees. If they push it, they will lose a lot all at once. Does this ring any bells?

    But, I am going too fast for you. 

    We can start with lesson one: I will send you a rake that you can practice with. Don´t look for where to load the gasoline.  You have to use your arms. Let me know when you get good at it.  Promise me you won´t get a saw until you are ready.

    Bob Meinetz's picture
    Bob Meinetz on Jul 17, 2020 4:24 am GMT

    "Using wood, wood pellets, and charcoal for heating and cooking can replace fossil fuels and may result in lower CO2 emissions overall."

    What, by raking leaves and picking up twigs from the ground? I'm not surprised if that's the best you can do,for 150 years Vermonters have exaggerated how close they are to nature. Now if only they left their saws and steam shovels at home...

    But instead of casting childish insults (the last refuge of a dying argument), I'll leave it to other readers to judge whether Vermonters today are "maximizing the amount of carbon tied up in trees" - or mining, sawing, and raping their local habitat for every dime they possibly can. It's a grand tradition which predates the American Revolution.


    This photo of the Montepelier Statehouse (ca. 1900) shows the care Vermonters' ancestors took in preserving the state's beautiful forests by "maximizing the amount of carbon tied up in trees".

    Say Goodbye to Some of Vermont's Most Intact Forests (2019)

    "The Green Mountain National Forest wants to clearcut your wild backyard, and it doesn’t want to hear what you think about the environmental impacts.

    Without an in-depth, site-specific analysis, or customary public comment opportunity, the Manchester Ranger District of the Green Mountain National Forest is racing to cut 15,000 acres of Vermont’s most intact forests, in an effort it calls the Early Successional Habitat Creation Project.

    In simple terms, creating 15,000 acres of “early successional habitat” means a total area one-and-a-half times the size of the city of Burlington, spread across parcels in southern Vermont, will go from forest to stumps.

    Approved on June 28 by Forest Supervisor John Sinclair, up to 12,000 acres could be clearcut or receive similar treatment, benefiting relatively few species at the expense of overall biodiversity. Included in the proposed harvest are more than 4,000-acres across eight different Inventoried Roadless Areas, some of which have been proposed for Wilderness designation by Congress within the last 15 years. As planned, the project could jeopardize chances for these Roadless Areas to receive additional protection."

    Mark Silverstone's picture
    Mark Silverstone on Jul 24, 2020 8:32 pm GMT

    When I click on the link I get this:

    "Unavailable due to legal reasons"

    In any case, there are 5.9 million acres in Vermont. Please excuse them for having some modest cities! (Forests of Vermont, 2016 - US Forest Service www.fs.fed.us › nrs › pubs › ru_fs119)

    Nevertheless:

    Behold Vermont! 
    https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/13/travel/vermont-drone-photographs.html?referringSource=articleShare

     

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