Preliminary work underway on pipeline project

Preliminary work underway on pipeline project

Following minor delays and a major challenge by environmental groups, work was started last month on the Oklahoma portion Flanagan South Pipeline.

Enbridge Energy Co. officials said clearing of rights-of-way commenced in late January and has been proceeding steadily along a 40-mile southwest slash across Osage County. Construction was due to begin in August on this final leg of the $2.6 billion Flanagan South line, which runs 600 miles from northern Illinois to central Oklahoma.

From its Kansas departure near Caney, the Flanagan South will slice an eight-mile vertical path down northwestern Washington County before entering the Osage en route to its ending point in Cushing, the Oklahoma town dubbed “the pipeline crossroads of the world.”

When put into operation later this year, the new 36-inch line will transport 600,000 barrels-per-day of the diluted bitumen oil and unprocessed tar sands crude from Pontiac, Ill., to storage facilities at Cushing with an ultimate destination at refineries on the U.S. Gulf Coast.

Completion originally was expected in late July or August for Flanagan South, which is being installed alongside Enbridge’s existing 22- to 24-inch Spearhead line. The company officials previously stated that the Spearhead line is also destined to carry the thick, dilbit crude oil — adding another 175,000-bpd capacity.

On Friday, an official with the Canada-based company said work was about to get underway on a second Enbridge pump station at Pershing.

The Flanagan South project received a jump start in late November, when a federal court judge in the District of Columbia denied a request by the Sierra Club and National Wildlife Federation for a halt on construction of the pipeline. U.S. District Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson ruled that work may proceed while he considers the legality of a permit issued to Enbridge by the Army Corps Engineers.

Environmental organizations filed a lawsuit challenging the Corps’ use of Nationwide Permit 12, which allows for “fast track” construction of the pipeline without the requirement for fully drawn out Environmental Impact Studies.

In her judgment turning down the requested injunction, Brown said the organizations “have fallen short of demonstrating that irreparable harm will result if the current construction proceeds during the pendency of this litigation, and the Court is not convinced that the balance of harms and public interest factors weigh in Plaintiffs’ favor.”

One of the major grievances of Sierra Club and NWF had - like Sierra Club had with the Army Corps of Engineers permitting for Keystone XL’s southern half - is that Nationwide Permit 12 generally deals with small projects deemed “single and complete,” usually half an acre in size or less.

“When constructed, the FS Pipeline will cross approximately 1,950 wetlands or waters under the jurisdiction of the Corps— an area that, as noted above, totals 13.68 miles,” Jackson said of the Sierra Club-NWF argument.

A favorable ruling in the DC case will allow Enbridge to receive almost 2,000 Nationwide 12 Permits for “single and complete projects,” despite the fact that Flanagan South is one single pipeline. Also, public hearings are not required for Nationwide Permit 12 projects.

Another significant difference between Flanagan South and the much-discussed TransCanada’s Keystone XL Pipeline is that the Enbridge line does not cross the border with Canada and therefore can proceed without obtaining U.S. State Department and presidential approval.