Once Again, Reality Upends the “Keep It in the Ground” Playbook

Source: ISO New England 2018

Source: ISO New England 2018

Reality and facts are taking a real toll on the “Keep It in the Ground” movement.

Last May, citing the need to “store and deliver natural gas to a greater number of New Hampshire customers,” the New Hampshire State Senate endorsed the “Granite Bridge” pipeline project by a vote of 22 to 2, including all 10 Democrats. Among those Democrats was noted environmentalist Sen. Martha Fuller Clark, who called the pipeline “a smart, responsible and forward-looking approach to meeting our state’s energy needs.”

Two weeks ago, the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission, citing “clear and unrefuted” evidence that the aging Enbridge Line 3 pipeline needed to be replaced, voted unanimously to approve the construction of the replacement pipeline. 

Unsurprisingly, the facts—and overwhelming regulatory and legislative support of pipeline development—have only enraged the environmental extremists. When it was clear that the five governor-appointed commissioners of the Minnesota PUC were going to approve the replacement of Enbridge 3, a protester shouted, “You have just declared war on the Ojibwe!”

And environmental extremist Winona LaDuke threatened mass protests, calling Line 3 “the ground zero in the battle over climate change.” Saying, “They have gotten their Standing Rock,” LaDuke held a news conference to urge activists to converge on Minnesota and threatened to “do everything that is needed to stop this pipeline.”

While it was refreshing to see lawmakers and regulators refuse to be intimidated by environmental extremists and instead make decisions based on the facts, that is not always the case, as California and New England politicians have made so painfully clear.

Two ground-breaking reports released this year demonstrate just how activist-inspired anti-pipeline policy has hurt residents in those coastal regions.

According to a new report from the Center for Demographics and Policy at Chapman University, California’s “opposition to oil pipelines and rail transport has largely succeeded in barring oil imports to California from the lower 48 states and Canada.” As a result, the state is experiencing a “growing reliance on crude oil imports from politically repressive countries … locations the state has no ability to regulate.” This reliance on foreign imports makes California “more vulnerable to political disputes and pricing and supply fluctuations involving oil-producing countries.”

Further, California’s climate and energy infrastructure polices have “boost[ed] energy prices for both electricity consumption and transportation fuels well above the national average.” And these higher costs have “disproportionately harm[ed] economically vulnerable and historically disadvantaged populations in the state.”

Meanwhile, anti-pipeline extremists have been so successful in New England that those states had to import natural gas from Russia to meet the public demand during last winter’s cold snap. According to a report released earlier this year by ISO New England, the region’s electrical grid operator, “the region’s winter reliability concerns”—including the possibility of rolling blackouts—"will continue until generators decide to sign contracts for LNG or greater natural gas pipeline capacity.”

But, as the regulators in Minnesota and lawmakers in New Hampshire have demonstrated, there is hope. As long as policymakers keep the issues grounded in fact, they won’t acquiesce to those who want to keep much-needed oil and natural gas in the ground.