January 2024, Vol. 251, No. 1


Projects January 2024

Court Affirms Dismissal of Lawsuit by DAPL Protesters 

A recent ruling by a three-judge panel from the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld the decision made by a federal judge in 2021 to dismiss a legal action brought by demonstrators opposing the Dakota Access Pipeline, the Associated Press (AP) reported. 

The protesters, numbering nine, claimed that law enforcement officers deployed excessive force during a confrontation in 2016. 

Initiated in 2016, the lawsuit alleged violations of civil and constitutional rights, specifically focusing on the use of tear gas, rubber bullets, shotgun bean bags, and water in sub-freezing temperatures during a clash on Nov. 20, 2016, at a barricaded highway bridge. 

Vanessa Dundon, a Navajo Nation member and lead plaintiff, asserted sustaining an eye injury during the incident. 

Named as defendants in the lawsuit were the sheriffs of Morton and Stutsman counties, the Mandan police chief, and 100 unidentified officers. In 2021, U.S. District Judge Daniel Traynor granted the officers’ request for dismissal, a decision that the protesters contested in 2022.  

Randall Bakke, the attorney representing the defendants, expressed satisfaction with the court’s decision, telling The Bismarck Tribune that, “Morton County and the other defendants are pleased with the 8th Circuit appellate court’s decision to uphold the North Dakota federal district court’s dismissal of all the plaintiffs’ claims against them.” 

According to AP, Rachel Lederman, the protesters’ attorney, conveyed disappointment, telling the newspaper, “It is disappointing to see the federal courts readily absolve law enforcement who brutally pummeled nonviolent, peaceful people with freezing high pressure water and dangerous, maiming munitions for hours on end.” 

The legal battle persists with ongoing lawsuits, including those filed by three protesters who allege injuries due to officers’ actions and two photographers who claim excessive force and constitutional rights violations while covering the protest. 

Meanwhile, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has recently released a preliminary environmental review of the oil pipeline. This is part of a comprehensive process anticipated to culminate in late 2024 with a decision on the pipeline’s contested Missouri River crossing near the Standing Rock Reservation. 

Despite the legal setbacks, the pipeline has been operational since 2017. Opposition to the project continues, notably from the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, citing concerns about the potential for a spill jeopardizing their drinking water supply.  

Wolf Carbon Withdraws Pipeline Application in Illinois 

Wolf Carbon Solutions pulled its permit application build a carbon capture pipeline in Illinois that would transport as much as 12 MTPA of carbon dioxide to a storage site in the state. 

“We have made the decision to withdraw our current application, with the intent to refile in early 2024, to address the questions and concerns raised by ICC staff in their recommendation,” Dean Ferguson, president of Wolf Carbon Solutions U.S., said in a written statement. 

The Illinois Commerce Commission, responsible for permitting, recommended in October that regulators deny Wolf’s application because the company does not have a final agreement in place with plant owner by Archer-Daniels-Midland (ADM). 

In a separate statement the company said it remained committed to the project. 

Denver-based Wolf is the most recent carbon capture pipeline running into problems. Nebraska-based Navigator CO2 Ventures canceled its Heartland Greenway pipeline project in October and Iowa-based Summit Carbon Solutions had its pipeline permitting applications denied twice: in North Dakota in August and South Dakota in September. 

Wolf’s pipeline is designed to move carbon dioxide from two ethanol plants owned by Archer-Daniels-Midland (ADM) in Iowa and transport the carbon to a sequestration site managed by ADM in Decatur, Illinois. 

Canadian Oil, Gas Producers Plan to Drill 8% More Wells in 2024 

Canadian oil and gas producers will drill 8% more wells in 2024 to take advantage of greater access to pipelines, with the Trans Mountain oil pipeline expansion due to open, the Canadian Association of Energy Contractors said in its annual forecast. 

Conventional oil production accounts for a small portion – 14% on average this year – of Canada’s overall crude output, which comes mainly from oil sands. 

Producers will drill 6,229 wells next year, up 481 from 2023, the Canadian Association of Energy Contractors predicted. 

Most of the increased drilling will likely happen in the second half of 2024, as the industry rebounds from a softer market in the recent third quarter, the association said.  

The Trans Mountain expansion is scheduled to start shipping crude late in the first quarter of 2024, while the Coastal GasLink is approaching mechanical completion. 

Capital discipline by producers is likely to cap growth in drilling, the association said. 

A tight labor market remains a major challenge, the association’s CEO, Mark Scholz, said. 

TC Energy Receives FERC Approval for Virginia Reliability Project 

The U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) approved TC Energy’s Virginia Reliability Project, the company said, adding that the project will be online by Nov. 1, 2025. 

Columbia Gas Transmission’s Virginia Reliability Project (VRP) is an expansion project that would replace two existing segments of the pipeline system to continue reliable and abundant natural gas supply. 

The Columbia Gas Transmission system, owned by TC Energy, extends from New York to the Midwest and Southeast, serving as a link between major natural gas basins and major markets. 

The Virginia Reliability Project will replace 48 miles of 1950’s-era 12-inch pipeline with 24-inch pipeline with steel pipe and technology, according to the company website. 

The construction is expected to begin by the second quarter of 2024 and will add more than $500 million of economic value, while creating more than 3,500 jobs in the state, TC Energy said in the statement. 

Australian Court Halts Barossa Pipeline Near Tiwi Islands 

An Australian court ordered Santo to halt its pipeline project 43 miles (70 km) north of the Tiwi Islands pending a final ruling. However, the company has been allowed to start laying gas pipelines for a section of its $3.6 billion Barossa gas project. 

The ruling comes after a land owner from the Tiwi Islands lodged proceedings with the federal court of Australia to stop pipeline works until its risk to underwater cultural heritage were properly assessed. 

Elders on the Islands had earlier urged Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek to make a declaration to protect their heritage, which they said was at immediate risk of desecration from the construction, according to Reuters. 

In early November, the court granted an interim injunction to halt Santos from starting work on undersea pipelines at the project. 

The new ruling by the court says that Santos can begin  activities on a 3-mile (86-km) section of pipeline for the project, but not develop anything north of the Tiwi Islands. 

Santos said it plans to deliver gas in the first half of 2025. 

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