Project Management Institute

Pipeline Blockages

Protests Complicate U.S. Fossil Fuel Infrastructure Projects


Protesters at Standing Rock Reservation in the U.S. state of North Dakota

The controversial US$3.8 billion Dakota Access Pipeline project is once again moving forward, thanks to support from U.S. President Donald Trump. But this and similar projects still could face prolonged protests across the U.S., where much of the pipeline network is past middle age.

Members of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe and others began camping out in North Dakota near a section of the Dakota Access Pipeline's proposed route last August, calling for the project to be rerouted away from the Missouri River (a primary water source of the tribe) and sacred tribal sites. Delays cost the sponsor, Energy Transfer Partners, more than US$83 million per month and pushed back the deadline for the project, which was supposed to be completed in 2016.

The action inspired others opposed to fossil fuel infrastructure in the U.S. Protesters in December set up a camp near Marfa, Texas to oppose construction of the 148-mile (238-kilometer) Trans-Pecos Pipeline between Mexico and the United States. Protests also hit pipeline projects in Florida and Arkansas in late 2016 and early 2017.

“Standing Rock showed us what's possible,” Nicole Williams, a protester of the US$3 billion Sabal Trail Pipeline under construction in Florida, Alabama and Georgia, told PBS.

As stakeholder opposition complicates new pipeline projects, the existing network of U.S. pipelines is aging beyond its useful life. About half of the network is 50 years old, and more than 2,000 miles (3,220 kilometers) of it is nearly a century old, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. —Jessica Boden

About half of the U.S. pipeline network is 50 years old, and more than 2,000 miles (3,220 kilometers) of it is nearly a century old.

Source: U.S. Department of Transportation

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