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Last chance to comment on proposed oil pipeline: BakkenLink to connect oil field to rail facilities

Today is the final day to leave comments with the Bureau of Land Management about the environmental assessment of a proposed pipeline that would carry crude oil from Beaver Lodge to a rail facility in Fryburg.

"It's positive so we can start moving oil out of North Dakota and get that price gap fixed," Public Service Commission Public Utility Analyst Chris Marohl said. "There's a discounted price for Bakken crude because we are unable to export as much as we can produce."

Copies of the environmental assessment can be found at

BakkenLink was originally planned as an extension to the stalled Keystone XL pipeline, according to a letter of intent filed with the PSC in June 2010. It is now a connection from the northwestern North Dakota oil fields to the railroad, which then connects to any refinery in the country.

"The benefit of rail facilities is you have access to any market that you want that, basically, rail goes to," Marohl said.

The 8-inch and 12-inch steel crude oil pipeline would stretch 144 miles, according to the June 2011 PSC application from BakkenLink Pipeline LLC. The BLM environmental assessment measures the project at 132 miles of 12-inch steel.

While there is one more day to leave comments with the BLM, one of the biggest issues the Dacotah Chapter of the Sierra Club has with the project is its proximity to Theodore Roosevelt National Park, especially the point at which the pipeline meets the rail, Conservation Organizer Wayde Schafer said.

"The noise level and having an industrial complex that will be visible from the park will diminish visitor enjoyment of the park," he said.

The use of pipeline and rail to transport crude removes semis from the road, Director of the North Dakota Pipeline Authority Justin Kringstad said.

"Once these pipelines get placed into service, you see an immediate impact on roadway congestion, taking heavy truck traffic off the roadways so its increasing safety, reducing dust," he said.

Hybrid transports like the proposed BakkenLink have become more popular as development in the North Dakota Oil Patch has continued, Kringstad said.

"Historically, it would have been unique, but now we're seeing several projects," he said. "There are several others that are combining rail as well as pipelines in order to maximize efficiencies."

In its original letter of intent, BakkenLink Pipeline LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Great Northern Midstream LLC, stated it wished to commence construction in June 2011 and be complete by March 2013.

According to the June 2011 application, completion would be delayed until December 2013.

The project would cost $126,460,000, according to the June 2011 application.

If the project is found to have no significant impact it will be given the green light Sept. 28, according to the Federal Infrastructure Projects Permitting Dashboard.

Calls to BakkenLink Pipeline representatives Steven J. Griesser in Houston went unreturned Thursday and Friday.

Comments can be emailed to Lowell Hassler at

Katherine Grandstrand
I graduated from Bemidji State University in 2007 with a bachelor's degree in mass communcations, from Columbia College Chicago in 2009 with a master's degree in journalism.  
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