Protesters Aren’t Stopping US Pipeline Network Growth

By Steve Goreham


Opposition to oil and gas pipelines produces sensational headlines. Protests of the Keystone XL, Dakota Access, and numerous smaller projects are well-covered by the media, creating the impression of an industry halted by public outcry. But the US pipeline network is steadily expanding and safety is improving.

Construction efforts for oil and gas pipelines have long faced opposition from local residents who don’t want a pipeline near their community. But over the last decade, opposition expanded from local to national, involving protesters concerned with supposed impact on the climate and the global environment. Pipelines are no longer opposed for only NIMBY (Not in My Backyard) reasons, but increasingly for NOPE (Not on Planet Earth) reasons.

Keystone XL pipeline opposition is a well-known example. The Keystone XL was originally proposed in 2008 to carry petroleum from the Canadian oil sands, Montana, and North Dakota to US Gulf Coast refineries. Environmental groups, citizens, and politicians attacked the project, warning that the pipeline would harm water supplies and increase global warming.

Global warming environmentalist Bill McKibben was arrested in front of the White House in a Keystone XL protest. Senator Barbara Boxer warned that the pipeline would cause cancer in more Americans. In November 2015, President Obama rejected the project, stating, “America is now a global leader when it comes to taking serious action to fight climate change. And frankly, approving this project would have undercut that global leadership.” In January 2017, President Trump reversed the Obama rejection and signed a memorandum to advance the Keystone XL, which should begin construction later this year.

The Dakota Access Pipeline, a project to carry crude oil from North Dakota to southern Illinois, was announced in June 2014. The pipeline was opposed by Native Americans and other local groups, but also national and international groups including Amazon Watch, Black Lives Matter, and Greenpeace. St. Louis, Minneapolis, and 17 other cities passed ordinances opposing the pipeline. Celebrity Leonardo di Caprio, Senator Bernie Sanders, and even United Nations officials called for a halt to the pipeline.

In the spring and summer of 2016, a camp of over 3,000 protestors developed in the path of pipeline construction in Cannon Ball, North Dakota and received international media coverage. But between September 2016 and January 2017, the camp was cleared by police with about 200 protesters arrested. The pipeline began operation in May 2017 and now transports over 500,000 barrels of oil per day.

With rising protests backed by sympathetic media coverage, one might conclude that the US pipeline network is in decline, but this is not the case. Pipeline networks are expanding and increasingly used to safely transport oil, oil products, natural gas, and volatile liquids such as ethane, butane, and propane.

Driven by increased oil production from the fracking revolution, US crude oil pipeline mileage increased from 49,000 in 2004 to over 75,000 in 2016, according to the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA). But many locations need still more pipeline capacity. Petroleum output is rising so fast in America’s largest oil field, the Permian Basin shale field in West Texas, that pipelines can’t handle it all.


The pipeline network for distributing natural gas to homes and businesses is also growing steadily. Data from the PHMSA shows that gas distribution main and service pipeline mileage grew 80 percent from 1984 to 2016. Gas pipeline mileage continues to steadily expand, despite “electrification” efforts aimed at reducing the use of natural gas and propane in California and New York.

Pipelines are the safest method to transport crude oil, oil products, and natural gas. A 2012 study by the Manhattan Institute used PHMSA data to show that hazardous material incidents for pipeline transportation of oil and gas were roughly one-twentieth of the incidents for rail transportation and hundreds of times less frequent than incidents for truck transportation per billion ton miles.

PHMSA data also shows that the number of serious incidents and fatalities experienced by US pipelines is down roughly 50 percent since 2000, despite the expansion of oil and gas pipeline networks. US residents have about double the chance of dying from a lighting strike than a pipeline accident.


New England is the only region where opposition has prevented most pipeline construction during recent years. Earlier this month, New York Governor Mario Cuomo rejected the proposed Constitution Pipeline, which planned to bring fracked gas from Pennsylvania to the New England pipeline network.

In February, when supplies of gas were tight, Massachusetts imported liquefied natural gas from Russia, needed to heat homes and generate electricity. Massachusetts Attorney General Laura Healey admitted that she would rather import gas from Russia than build a new gas pipeline to her state. Meanwhile, New England residents pay the highest electricity costs in the continental United States, and these prices are rising.

With the exception of the New England region, pipeline opponents have failed to halt the growth of US pipeline systems. Oil and gas pipeline networks continue to expand with improving safety, while delivering increasing amounts of petroleum, petroleum products, and natural gas to US residents and businesses.

Originally published in Master Resource. Republished here at request of the author. Steve Goreham is a speaker on the environment, business, and public policy and author of the book  Outside the Green Box: Rethinking Sustainable Development.

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June 27, 2018 8:46 am

Protests of……keep it up Libs

June 27, 2018 9:03 am

Wrong Cuomo but if Mario was still thieving oxygen, he would have stopped pipeline construction also.

June 27, 2018 9:11 am

Massachusetts Attorney General Laura Healey admitted that she would rather import gas from Russia than build a new gas pipeline to her state.

Surely that calls for a special prosecutor to examine possible ties between Healey and Putin.

Mumbles McGuirck
Reply to  commieBob
June 27, 2018 9:30 am

Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.

Reply to  Mumbles McGuirck
June 27, 2018 10:41 am

I believe “Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. Three times is enemy action” – Ian Fleming.

So stupidity may explain one or 2 damaging actions, but 3 or more is malice.

Eustace Cranch
Reply to  commieBob
June 27, 2018 10:02 am

And that imported gas will be delivered how, exactly?

Reply to  commieBob
June 27, 2018 12:24 pm

The end result is the same, importing gas to her state.
The only difference is who your money is supporting. She’s declaring that it’s better to send that money to the Russians than it is to send it to fellow Americans.

Mumbles McGuirck
June 27, 2018 9:19 am

The question is, should we be trumpeting this or keeping it soto voce? Let the greenies have their camera time, their crying fits. When they’re done, we move in, clean up the trash in their former campsite, and build our pipelines. The world progresses, fuel gets cheaper, and the lefties get to stew in their smugness Win/win.

June 27, 2018 9:20 am

Yes but….. In my home state of Virginia, people are fighting tooth and nail against 2 multi-state pipelines, the Mountain Valley Pipeline and the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. Lawsuits, living up in trees, camping out in the route, harassing the regulators, requests for rehearing of approved permits, at times it gets rather savage.

Komrade Kuma
Reply to  oeman50
June 27, 2018 10:59 am

A long, long, long time ago the species came down from the trees.

Unfortunately a tiny, tiny minority just never adapted…..

Sam C Cogar
Reply to  oeman50
June 27, 2018 11:58 am

An d those same two pipelines in my home state of West Virginia …..

Construction kicks up on big WV pipeline projects

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — April 10, 2018 –Two major natural gas pipelines originating in West Virginia are moving forward with construction activities after focusing on cutting trees through the winter months.

Mountain Valley Pipeline will extend 42-inch diameter natural gas pipeline over 303 miles to transport West Virginia natural gas into southern Virginia. The pipeline developer says the $3.5 billion project is on pace for completion this year after felling trees in areas considered to be sensitive habitats for bats and migratory birds.

Mountain Valley Pipeline’s developers say the project will produce 9,000 jobs in Virginia and West Virginia. The project anticipates direct spending of $407 million in Virginia, and $811 million in West Virginia. During construction, the project is anticipated to generate $34 million in state and local taxes in Virginia and $47 million in West Virginia.

Atlantic Coast Pipeline would run 600 miles from West Virginia through Virginia and into southeastern North Carolina, delivering up to 1.5 billion cubic feet of Marcellus shale gas. That $5.1 billion project is on track for completion in 2019, developers say.

Over the course of construction, Atlantic Coast Pipeline’s developers say the project will generate more than 17,000 new jobs and $2.7 billion in economic activity across the region, with more than 13,000 professionals working directly on pipeline construction.

Read more @

Reply to  Sam C Cogar
June 28, 2018 7:50 pm

after felling trees in areas considered to be sensitive habitats for bats and migratory birds

How come watermelons only worry about birds and bat when they are protesting? I’m pretty sure any single wind turbine will kill more then the entire pipeline project.


June 27, 2018 9:21 am

I am more than a little perturbed by the Pecksniffian antics of the greens.
it calls to mind the words from Captain Renault in “Casablanca”: “I’m shocked…”

Reply to  rocketscientist
June 27, 2018 9:47 am

This comment sent me to the dictionary to look up “Pecksniffian”. Interesting word. This is what I like about this web site, I learn something new every day.

Komrade Kuma
Reply to  RicDre
June 27, 2018 11:04 am

#MeToo 🙂

Go Home
Reply to  Komrade Kuma
June 27, 2018 11:36 am

^^^Looks like cultural appropriation to me. ^^^

CD in Wisconsin
June 27, 2018 9:44 am

I have said this before, and I will say it again: There is only one way the USA and the world will be able to take steps forward toward a post-fossil fuels era. It will not happen with wind and solar and probably not with biomass and bio-fuels. It won’t happen with a scientifically disputable climate alarmist narrative, and it won’t happen with a lot of protests in the streets and FF infrastructure sabotage.

The only way it is going to happen is with technological advances in energy generation that are capable of replacing fossil fuels. As of right now, the only tech alternative to fossil fuels is nuclear energy. I am all for fourth generation nuclear fission technology research and development. We will never know for sure if they are commercially viable until we do the R&D. So let’s drop the wind and solar subsidies and the $2.5 billion we spend every year on climate alarmism. Redirect that money and other monies to the fourth generation nuclear R&D effort. Nuclear fusion? Unsure about that.

It is frustrating to see McKibben and other activists brainwashing so many people (especially young people) into believing their anti-fossil fuel, climate alarmist and wind and solar narratives. There is something to be said for a concerted effort to make the American people more scientifically literate, and I wish someone in Washington would wake up and realize that it needs to be done. Unfortunately, it will probably be a long wait, if it happens at all.

Reply to  CD in Wisconsin
June 27, 2018 10:03 am

Start by reclaiming some semblance of high standards in the American education system. Nurture a sense of examining evidence and reaching independent conclusions based on evidence. Teach the very basics of what constitutes evidence. Nurture critical thinking skills. This is all hard to do, and it requires committed instructors who get paid enough to be committed instructors.

Get rid of the assembly-line mentality in education. People have become like fast-made, cheap products of an industry ethic devoted only to making the most profit from the least input of effort and resources, and just keeping the machine grinding away in the name of living. This is not really living, of course.

Reply to  Robert Kernodle
June 27, 2018 10:43 am

Robert Kernodle :”Start by reclaiming some semblance of high standards
in the American education system.”
What you need to do is “CLEAN OUT THE SWAMP” which the
HUMANITIES have been turned into at almost ALL UNIVERSITIES !
You MUST de-fund ALL the “Stupid Studies Subjects”
( like Feminist Studies for one example ) which have NO VALUE and
which tear society apart for no reason or benefit , just MALEVOLENCE !
I suggest TWO PEOPLE you SHOULD look to OR ENGAGE !!!
1. Canadian Prof. Jordan Peterson.
2. American Ben Shapiro.
Both men have FINE MINDS and are ARTICULATE and
They are BOTH strongly opposed to the Post-Modern-Neo-Marxism
which has seized control of ALMOST ALL the “ecological movements”
They deal well with SJW and the like by dismantling their
ideologically-based stance with their REASONED ARGUMENTS
without creating rancour and POSSIBLY even persuading
them to another point of view and possibly RECRUITING them to
“our” side of the debate !
( View them on Youtube ! )
POTUS TRUMP has really started the ball rolling hasn’t he !

Sam C Cogar
Reply to  Robert Kernodle
June 27, 2018 12:30 pm

Robert Kernodle – June 27, 2018 10:03 am

People have become like fast-made, cheap products of an industry ethic devoted only to making the most profit from the least input of effort and resources,

Right on, ….. Robert K, and to paraphrase your above great statement, to wit:

The US public schools and colleges have morphed into …. non-profit “public funded”, for-profit businesses whose product (student graduates) have become pretty much like fast-made, cheap products of an industry ethic devoted only to making the most profit from the least input of effort and resources

Bruce Cobb
June 27, 2018 9:53 am

With regard to the Mass. pipeline, I believe there was more to it than just the oppostion (though that certainly played a role). Kinder Morgan had trouble getting commitments regarding future NG power plants and LNG plants, among other things. The bottom line is, they didn’t see the demand required for them to go ahead. Why, I don’t know. Last I heard, they will try again though.

June 27, 2018 10:02 am

The “alternative-route” argument is a good one to deploy against your local “greens”, who have no credible answer besides shouting or sulking, i.e. the oil/gas will either go via this pipeline or it will go via road/rail, causing environmental destruction, including the deaths of countless small cuddly animals and rare plants.

Boulder Skeptic
Reply to  climanrecon
June 28, 2018 5:20 am

“hazardous material incidents for pipeline transportation of oil and gas were roughly one-twentieth of the incidents for rail transportation”

This isn’t about safety or the environment at the core, otherwise facts like this would matter. Who owns the trains? Democrat mega-donor Warren Buffet. Follow the money.

June 27, 2018 10:05 am

I would not want a pipeline running through my neighborhood, either, because I’ve seen the fires at refineries in Philadelphia and the ship fires when some idiot showed up at the docks with a lit smoke of some time. That was the 1970s, and it was not pretty then. I know safety has increased considerably since then, but I still don’t want a pipeline near where I live, shop or hike.

Even so, the protests against this kind of thing are generated by what seem to me to be manufactured hysterics, not real concerns.

I don’t understand the opposition. If they are so ignorant of the sources of their heat and electricity that they protest the very things they use, there’s probably no way to get past that. So let them rant. They can go cold and hungry for all I care about their opinions.

Keith R Jurena
Reply to  Sara
June 27, 2018 11:02 am

Pipelines are infinitely safer than tanker cars. Liquefied natural gas? That stupidity burns and hot. Its cryogenic, lots of energy lost turning it from compressed gas to refrigerated liquid.

Pipelines continue to become safer. Pipelines are now internally inspected by robotic machines which operate without having to shut down or shut in service.

Lawrence Poe
Reply to  Keith R Jurena
July 1, 2018 6:46 pm

Those devices are called “smart pigs” in the industry. One was employed on a section of pipeline that runs through the north end of my late father-in-law’s farm. I enjoyed a chat with a pipeline company representative who stopped in to inform us that his crew might need to go to the back of the farm with their heavy equipment, and they indeed wound up having to replace 40-50 feet of pipe.

The smart pig detects cracks, rust, deformities and other faults that might affect pipeline safety.

The pipeline representative told me that “pig” is an acronym. But the main reason for the smart pig name was the squealing noise the contraption makes as it travels the underground pipeline.

I can imagine it would be a genuine freak out experience to be strolling with your pooch in the back forty, only to suddenly hear a high-pitched squeel approach underfoot and then recede as the smart pig moved on down the line.

Reply to  Sara
June 27, 2018 12:20 pm

We have a small (1-2″) branch NG pipeline running through our farm that was installed 40-50 years ago. It’s no problem as long as we don’t do deep tillage and we call the gas line company before doing any digging (fence posts) within 25′ of the pipeline. The pipeline serves a rural community of about 1500. I imagine one day it will have to be replaced, but we’ve always been fairly reimbursed for crop damage by utilities.

June 27, 2018 11:02 am

They are doing a great job in Canada though.

John in L du B
Reply to  ResourceGuy
June 27, 2018 1:17 pm

“They are doing a great job in Canada though.”

That’s for sure: David Suzuki, Greenpeace, Black Lives Matters, The mayor of Vancouver and all the rest of Rex Tillerson’s little helpers work hard for Big Oil. Exon Knew is just a sham. Exon has always been happy to jolly the big multinational greens along and encourage them to work hard to keep Canadian oil away from tide water – unless that’s Gulf Coast Tidewater. Just keep Alberta oil flowing south discounted $14 a barrel. The greens have always been happy to take Big Oil money.

Once he got Keystone approved, Trump didn’t need or want Tillerson anymore because Trump is ending the war on coal and that doesn’t fit Tillerson and Exon’s plans. US Oil wants the demand for natural gas to remain high and coal undercuts that price.

June 27, 2018 2:16 pm

How many of the protesters with natural gas heat can even begin to comprehend that there is a gas pipeline right up and into their house or apartment building, not to mention businesses that use natural gas.

Reply to  Davis
June 27, 2018 5:11 pm

I doubt most of them even realize that natural gas is the stuff that comes out of their stoves, or that keeps their water warm.

June 27, 2018 5:09 pm

Their goal is to be seen and make themselves feel good about themselves.
Actually making a difference? That’s someone else’s problem.

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