The Edmond Sun

Local News

July 14, 2012

Lawsuit threatens Cushing-to-Gulf pipeline

EDMOND — Oklahoma environmental activists and an east Texas governmental body have filed a complaint seeking an injunction against the TransCanada Cushing-to-Gulf pipeline.

The Sierra Club, Clean Energy Future Oklahoma and the East Texas Sub Regional Planning Commission filed the 44-page complaint on June 29 in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma, according to court records. Defendants are several U.S. Army Corps of Engineers officials.

The action for declaratory and injunctive relief challenges the Corps of Engineers’ alleged improper issuance of Nationwide Permit 12 for the dredge and fill of U.S. waters pursuant to Section 404 of the Clean Water Act, and for the agency’s alleged improper use of the permit for the pipeline.

TransCanada’s Gulf Coast Project, the southern leg of the Keystone pipeline, is a roughly 485-mile, 36-inch crude oil pipeline beginning in Cushing and extending south to the Houston, Texas, area city of Nederland.

According to the complaint the pipeline involves more than a thousand water crossings and the permanent destruction of more than 130 acres of high-quality forested wetlands.

The complaint alleges the Corps of Engineers’ issuance of the permit was contrary to the Administrative Procedure Act and “was arbitrary and capricious, an abuse of discretion or otherwise not in accordance with the law.”

The pipeline “will cause more than minimal adverse effects” and there is no limit to the number of times a utility line can use the permit, “nor is there a limit to the total number of acres of wetlands that a utility line can destroy,” the complaint states.

It also alleges that the Corps of Engineers “failed to take the required hard look at the environmental impacts” and its finding of no significant impacts and decision not to prepare an environmental impact statement for the permit were contrary to the National Environmental Policy Act.

The plaintiffs seek preliminary and permanent injunctions against the project proceeding under the permit.

U.S. crude oil production has been growing significantly in Oklahoma, Texas, North Dakota and Montana, according to TransCanada, the company overseeing the project. Producers do not have access to enough pipeline capacity to move this production to the large refining market along the U.S. Gulf Coast.

Construction is expected to begin in mid-2012, pending necessary permits for specific construction activities, with an anticipated in-service date of mid-to-late 2013, according to TransCanada. Contracts have been awarded to Michels Corporation for the Cushing to Polk County, Texas, portion and to Sunland Construction for the Polk County to Nederland portion.

Oklahoma is hoping for an economic boost from the pipeline, which will serve the Gulf Coast marketplace. Producers do not have enough pipeline capacity to move the oil backlog in Cushing to the large refining market along the Gulf Coast.

TransCanada says the full Keystone XL Pipeline will create about 20,000 construction and manufacturing jobs, which will generate more than $585 million in new tax revenue for states and communities along the pipeline route. TransCanada will also pay more than $5.2 billion in property taxes during the pipeline’s operating life.

The defendants have not yet responded to the complaint in court filings. | 341-2121, ext. 108

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