May 2, 2017 Read More →

On the Blogs: Pipeline Opponents Find Common Cause in Property Rights

Ozy.com:

Property rights, rather than environmental ones, are increasingly forming the brunt of arguments against pipelines — and not just in Georgia and South Carolina, which have recently passed laws backing landowners. Just three days before the crucial New Hampshire presidential primary last year, the Union Leader reported that 627 of 836 property owners in the Granite State had denied Kinder Morgan access to their land for a planned natural gas line.

Two statehouse bills soon followed (ultimately, they failed). Similar concerns have spread from west Texas to Arkansas and Tennessee, and are much more common “over the last few years, as pipeline takings have grown in importance since the fracking boom began,” Somin says.

In the bayous of Louisiana, environmentalists, fishermen and landowners have joined up against a right-of-way request from Energy Transfer Partners. That name should sound familiar: It’s the same company behind the contentious Dakota Access pipeline.

Some activists across the South reject the type of rhetoric that filled social media streams during the height of the #NODAPL protests last September. For many of them, adopting a label as simple as “environmentalist” comes with baggage that can sink their cause. Besides, such terminology hardly holds true for a lifer like Bonitatibus, whose family leans conservative and has long owned property in northeast Georgia. Considering her audience, she emphasizes concerns about eminent domain and local fishing, calling herself a conservationist rather than adopting a pox-on-pipelines populism. “It never made sense for us to talk about the river and environmental issues from the get-go,” Bonitatibus says, and it’s hard to argue with her results.

Still, opposition hasn’t quelled the oil industry’s interest in expansion. Nothing feeds hunger like scarcity, and the global drop in the price of oil has slashed prices, compelling companies to look for new fields for profit. In many cases, energy companies remain bullish, encouraged in part by President Donald Trump, who has looked to revive the Dakota Access and Keystone pipelines.

The industry brass insist they will be able to work with local property owners. That confidence holds true even in sites of previous defeat: After the Kinder Morgan conflict, another pipeline project — the $3 billion Sabal Trail spanning Alabama, Georgia and Florida — was approved by a federal judge in August.

The Pipeline Fight Launched From the RIght

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