With the Keystone XL blocked for the time being, environmentalists will have to decide whether they will make a second all-out effort to stop another conduit for tar sands oil -- the Wrangler Pipeline.
Wrangler has received much less publicity than Keystone XL because it goes nowhere near the tar sands in Alberta. The proposed 500-mile line would extend from the oil storage center at Cushing, Okla., to the cluster of refineries near Houston.
The line, to be owned by Enbridge, is projected to be operational in mid-2013, moving 800,000 barrels per day. It would do much of what Keystone XL would have done -- eliminate the bottleneck of oil at Cushing and move it to the Gulf refineries, after which it can be either exported or fed into the U.S. domestic supply chain. The net result would almost certainly be to facilitate an increase of tar sands production.
For environmentalists, Wrangler is likely to be more difficult to stop than Keystone XL. The pipeline route does not cross any sensitive environmental areas, such as Nebraska's Sand Hills. Because the pipeline will not cross an international border, it will not require a presidential permit. It will need permits from a variety of state and local authorities, such as the Oklahoma Corporation Commission and the Texas Railroad Commission, which are strongly supportive of the oil industry. All three members of the OCC and all three members of the TRC are Republicans.
As Reuters reported recently, the pipeline would complete an important link for the ongoing increase in North American oil production:
While previous proposals for a big link between Cushing and the Gulf Coast have struggled for commercial backing, Enbridge already transports the majority of Canadian oil exports as well as a substantial chunk of North Dakota production.
These producers are looking for premium markets away from Cushing and Enbridge is offering it.
Thus, the second part of the Wrangler project, Enbridge's Flanagan South pipeline. Flanagan South essentially doubles the capacity of Enbridge's existing Spearhead pipeline that runs from the Chicago area to Cushing.
This will be the key to pulling even more oil sands crude into the U.S. market as well as shifting rising production from the Bakken formation in North Dakota to more-profitable destinations.
Environmentalists' best chance is if landowners en route object to Enbridge's exercise of eminent domain and forced pooling to take control of the pipeline route. As I wrote several weeks ago, TransCanada had already sparked opposition from Texas landowners because of the company's heavy-handed use of its legal rights to grab land for the Keystone XL right of way.
The Wrangler Pipeline website helpfully explains:
A pipeline right-of-way is a strip of land that is usually between 30 to 125 feet wide.
(...) When evaluating various route alternatives, the preferred route attempts to follow existing pipeline and utility routes to the extent feasible. The Wrangler Pipeline will often be adjacent to (but not within) these existing rights-of-way, and Wrangler Pipeline project representatives will need to obtain a separate permanent easement agreement from affected landowners as well as obtain temporary construction work space from landowners and in some cases additional workspace from the holder of the adjacent utility or pipeline easement to minimize impacts.