Letter to the Editor – Aug. 23

Dear Editor,

Oneok sited its Bakken NGL Pipeline through the gypsum karst of the Spearfish Formation without having done its geological research.

Landsmen from Coates Field Service, the company representing Oneok in its acquisition of landowner easements, discounted landowners’ information about the danger of sinkholes. In March of this year, a geo-tech from the firm Oneok commissioned to belatedly carry out a geological study asked what the smooth grey surface covering a hill on our ranch near the proposed pipeline route was. He didn’t recognize it as gypsum.

Oneok also did not inform some landowners that they had 65 days to consider the initial offer it presented to them. Oneok was required, by statute to have so informed landowners of this in writing. In Crook County, members of Progressive Pathways received their initial offer from Oneok on December 19, 2011. Those not attending the meeting which took place on that date did not receive Oneok’s initial offer later still.

Dr. Warren Crawford informed the Crook County Commissioners at their April 4, 2012 meeting that he signed his pipeline easement agreement with Oneok in January of this year, after being told by a landsman representing Oneok that if he did not sign, Oneok would be sending a condemnation letter within one to two weeks.

He informed the commissioners at that same meeting that, concerned with the safety of the pipeline with respect to the gypsum deposits on his ranch, an addendum was attached to his easement agreement, signed and notarized by a landsman representing Oneok, stating that Oneok would provide him with Oneok’s geological report. Several days later, Dr. Crawford was informed that Oneok did not have a geological report.

The highly respected geologist, Perry Rahn, addressed our County Commissioners at their April 4, 2012 meeting. He told them that:

“They should have stayed out of the gypsum. Why they didn’t do a geological study before they proposed this route, I don’t know. But, you know, as a professional engineer, we have a mandate to look at public safety as our first priority and this project, the way they have it routed, it isn’t good. They could find a better place. Right now there’s a Keystone XL Pipeline being routed through Nebraska. And when they found out it was routed through the Sandhills and the Ogalalla Aquifer, they’re moving it over. That’s what they should do for this Bakken Pipeline… So whatever you people can do to encourage these people to move to a safer place, I hope you’re able to do it.”

In the July 26, 2012 issue of The Sundance Times, Commissioner Whalen’s concerns with the difficulty the county was having in finding a regulating body to help them decide whether Oneok’s proposed Bakken NGL Pipeline project was safe were noted.

The Bakken NGL Pipeline has been planned without the government oversight which would have considered the siting and the safety of this pipeline.

Federal agencies had limited to no jurisdiction in the planning of this pipeline, specifically because Oneok went around any federal land along the entire course of its 500+ mile pipeline route.

In April of this year, Commissioner Hadley wrote to the Governor’s office on behalf of the commissioners and landowners, enclosing a copy of Dr. Rahn’s report, and seeking guidance from the state. Several months passed with no response.

At the July 16, 2012 County Commissioners meeting, Commissioner Hadley informed landowners as follows:

“Okay, for you people here, I – the governor did contact me on regard to the letter that we sent – which you had asked us to send – and he – I talked to the governor’s office. I talked to his chief of staff and his permanent pipeline permit person and he had read the geological report that you’d sent in and also had the state geologist read it, and their determination was they didn’t have enough expertise to decide one way or the other whether it was applicable to put the pipeline, but they talked to Oneok and they said that they were doing these studies and that the governor was satisfied with whatever they came up with…”

In April of this year, Oneok announced its plans to construct a crude oil pipeline, the Bakken Crude Express, side by side with its Bakken NGL Pipeline through the Spearfish Formation with its unstable soils and gypsum karst.

Our county commissioners are still in negotiation with Oneok. Last week, Oneok sent a letter to our commissioners informing them of their plans to commence construction in areas of Crook County where they had authority to do so. Oneok has condemnation suits pending in Crook County and as well does not have the commissioners’ consent to cross county roads at this time.

Judy Bush