FILE PHOTO: Members of the Standing Rock Sioux Nation and Indigenous leaders participate in a protest march and rally in opposition to the Dakota Access and Keystone XL pipelines in Washington, U.S., March 10, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque/File Photo

THE NEUTRAL ZONE

Environmental activists won multiple victories in a 48-hour period as oil pipeline projects were either blocked, shut down, or canceled entirely. While environmental groups laud the successes, the outlook for pipeline projects around the U.S. in regards to economic and legal obstacles looks “grim.”

Dominion Energy and Duke Energy canceled their Atlantic Coast Pipeline project on Sunday, just weeks after winning an appeal from the Supreme Court allowing the companies to move the pipeline across the Appalachian Trail. The cost of the project doubled from $4 billion to $8 billion since 2014 due to delays, labor costs, and legal reviews, among other factors. Economic impacts are expected for the states that the ACPL would have run through, including West Virginia, Virginia, and North Carolina. Dominion stock fell 11% after the announcement. Steve White, executive director of the West Virginia Affiliated Construction Trades Foundation, lamented the cancellation of the ACPL project, calling the elimination of the expected 5,000 jobs “a terrible loss.” Virginia Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Barry DuVal said the pipeline project was expected to hold 1,300 jobs across 13 localities in the state and bring in $10.4 million in annual tax revenue.

A federal court ruled Monday the Dakota Access Pipeline must be shut down and emptied by August 5 pending an environmental review by the Army Corps of Engineers. U.S. District Judge James Boasberg, while acknowledging the potential for production disruption, said that the “seriousness of the Corps’ deficiencies outweighs the negative effects of halting the oil flow” while the review takes place over the next 13 months. The ruling is a victory for the Standing Rock Sioux tribe that led protests for years to protect drinking water and sacred sites north of their reservation that could have been impacted by the pipeline.

Also on Monday, the Supreme Court upheld a lower court ruling against the Keystone XL Pipeline that blocked an essential environmental permit. U.S. District Judge Brian Morris in Montana ruled against permitting for the Keystone XL pipeline and other new oil and gas pipelines, though the court temporarily allowed other permits for pipelines to cross waterways. The Supreme Court gave no specific reasoning for its decision in their one-paragraph ruling.

These decisions come down amid low demand for oil, increasing debt, and growing consideration for environmental impact, leading analysts to indicate a potential legal shift against fossil fuel infrastructure, despite long-time support of the projects from President Donald Trump. Environmental advocates see potential to legally block other pipelines around the country, including the Mountain Valley Pipeline in West Virginia and Virginia and Line 3 running between Canada and Wisconsin.

MEDIA PERSPECTIVE

Energy Sec. Brouillette: Atlantic Pipeline Cancellation ‘Disappointing’ – Newsmax – 7/6/2020
The decision by Duke Energy Corp. and Dominion Energy Inc. to cancel the construction of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline is “economically rational” but still “disappointing” because of the number of jobs that will not be created, Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette said Monday. […] “It’s a lost opportunity because of the number of jobs that would have been created in places like West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Virginia, and North Carolina,” said Brouillette. “The other lost opportunity here is lower energy costs for all of the residents in North Carolina. So a very important decision by these two companies. Disappointing, but I understand it.”

Major oil and gas pipeline projects, backed by Trump, flounder as opponents prevail in court – Washington Post – 7/6/2020
A number of recent legal defeats and business decisions have stymied three multibillion-dollar pipeline projects around the country, setting back President Trump’s 3½-year effort to expand oil and gas development in the United States. The reversals demonstrate both the enduring power of environmental laws that the Trump administration has been trying to weaken and the tenacity of environmental, tribal, and community activists who have battled the projects on forested land and in federal courtrooms.

Port: In another blow to North Dakota’s wellbeing, judge orders Dakota Access Pipeline shutdown citing Obama-era error in federal permitting – Inforum – 7/6/2020
“The Court will nonetheless require the oil to stop flowing and 24the pipeline to be emptied within 30 days from the date of this Opinion and accompanying Order.” […] This is terrible news from the perspective of North Dakota’s wellbeing. Our state, generally, and the oil industry, specifically, have been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic and low oil prices. DAPL has carried as much as 570,000 barrels per day of oil out of the state, which is approaching half of North Dakota’s total oil production.

How Anti-Pipeline Protesters Made the Fossil Fuel Industry Face Economic Reality – The New Republic – 7/6/2020
Well-heeled climate and energy wonks have long soughtelegant market solutions to lower greenhouse gas emissions—tax incentives for green energy, orcarbon pricing to gently nudge companies toward alow-carbon future. But in the past 24 hours, multiple breaking news events have pointed to what may be a more efficient, less genteel tool for stopping fossil fuel projects in their tracks: social movements.

As Fossil Fuel Pipelines Fall to Opposition, Utilities See Renewable Energy as Safe Bet – Green Tech Media – 7/6/2020
Legal challenges halted several major pipeline projects across the U.S. in recent days, underscoring a seismic shift facing the U.S. utility industry: the rise of renewables as a potentially less costly and risky alternative to fossil fuels. […] Various other pipelines, such as Permian Highway project in Texas, the Mountain Valley Pipeline from West Virginia to southern Virginia, and the PennEast project from Pennsylvania to New Jersey, may face legal challenges based on the Nationwide Permit 12 decision, said Dulles Wang, director of the North American gas team at Wood Mackenzie.

INFLUENCER PERSPECTIVE

Dan Brouillette on Twitter, 7/6/2020: Thank you Ashley Webster for speaking with me this morning on @varneyco. The Atlantic Coast Pipeline is a missed opportunity that would have generated $1.4 billion in economic activity and thousands of jobs.

erin brockovich on Twitter, 7/6/2020: It will always cost more money and lives to do thing that harm the people who live alongside industry – The Dakota Pipeline was always a bad idea, it desecrated Sioux lands and presented a hazard to the water table – we can do better –

Congressman Kelly Armstrong on Twitter, 7/7/2020: This is the goal of the environmental left. Keystone XL, DAPL, and now Atlantic Coast. Their mission is to stop all infrastructure related to the production and transport of oil and natural gas.

Kamala Harris on Twitter, 7/6/2020: A monumental victory for our environment and the Tribal and Native communities who have tirelessly fought against the Dakota Access Pipeline for years.

Dan Crenshaw on Twitter, 7/6/2020: FACT: Natural gas is responsible for majority of emissions reduction over last 15 years When leftist radicals stop a natural gas pipeline – the safest way to transport natural gas – you have to wonder if they really care about the environment.

Mark Ruffalo on Twitter, 7/6/2020: The Native people and the Water Protector allies have been saying this from the beginning. These pipelines are illegal and break treaty agreements between the USA and sovereign native territory.

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