The ramifications of the Obama administration’s recent decision to temporarily halt construction on the Dakota Access oil pipeline are being felt throughout the country—particularly in Pennsylvania. Industry executives worry about growing public opposition to pipelines, while activists have been encouraged by the success of Native American protesters.
Once under the radar, pipeline projects have taken center stage in an intense battle over the nation’s energy future and global climate change. Marathon Petroleum CEO Gary Heminger brought it up during his speech at the Shale Insight conference in Pittsburgh Wednesday.
“Despite the obvious truth that we make modern life possible, some activists try to portray fossil fuels—and the companies that produce, transport and sell them—as villains,” he said.
The annual gathering, hosted by the trade group the Marcellus Shale Coalition, featured a luncheon panel discussion titled, “Pipelines to Prosperity: Challenges, Opportunities and Lessons Learned.” It was followed by a keynote address from Donald Trump’s energy adviser and oil tycoon Harold Hamm.
Hamm sharply criticized the federal government’s decision to temporarily halt construction on the Dakota Access pipeline, which would ship oil from the Bakken Shale fields to Illinois.
“What we’re seeing here is a complete and total disregard of what made America great,” Hamm said. “The one thing we always had working for our country was a very strong rule of law.”
Former Pennsylvania environmental secretary Michael Krancer, who is now an energy industry attorney, says the opposition is no longer confined to standard NIMBY-ism.
“It’s a CAVE mentality—citizens against virtually everything.”
Oil and gas executives said they need to do a better job with public relations. They noted pipelines help secure the nation’s domestic energy supply. In particular, more gas pipelines are needed as coal plants retire, causing gas to take up a larger share of electric power generation.