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Oil pipeline construction moves forward

Managing editor

Imagine 350 construction workers laying 35 miles of steel pipe across Marion County.

Now imagine where these 350 construction workers will stay, eat, and buy fuel.

This will be the scenario next year at this time when a crude oil pipeline, originating in Alberta, Canada, will extend to Texas.

Since 2008, Kansans have heard about this 1,690-mile project.

Property owners in Marion County that are in the path of this $7 billion pipeline project between TransCanada and ConocoPhillips are being contacted by officials and being offering significant payouts for easements. In exchange, Keystone XL Pipeline Project will go through their properties and trench a ditch for the pipes.

What about county roads and bridges that construction crews will use to get to the sites?

According to Keystone spokesman Jim Prescott, the company will make sure roads and bridges will not be damaged.

“We’re in the process of obtaining permits from the six Kansas counties and three in Oklahoma to determine requirements for infrastructure,” he said. “We’re upfront about that. We’re not going to walk away from any responsibilities with this project.”

Prescott said they would identify which roads and bridges can be used, and more importantly, which ones cannot.

“We’ll make repairs when the work is done,” he said.

The company is roughly two-thirds of the way through the process of negotiating with local landowners. The permanent easement is 50 feet wide with a 60-foot temporary easement for construction purposes.

“It’s as if we’re buying the property and then giving it right back to the landowners,” Prescott said.

Landowners also are being compensated for damages, drainage issues, and loss of revenue from crops during construction, which will begin in May.

“The ultimate goal is to restore the property as close as possible to the way we found it,” Prescott said.

Heavy construction of the actual laying of pipe should be in June and July.

“If you stood in one place from May to November (2010), you would see a couple of dozen work crews go by,” Prescott said.

He explained that each 100 to 125-miles of pipeline are built in “spreads.” Each spread is a contract and awarded to individual contractors.

The 36-inch diameter, 80-foot long steel pipe will be placed in a ditch, seven to eight feet deep.

The route through Marion County is roughly between Remington Road and Marion Reservoir, running north to south.

There will be a contractor yard and an area where pipes will be stored. The individual contractors will determine those areas.

“There will be quite a bit of activity that will occur before construction starts and the first shovel of dirt is turned,” Prescott said.

Some spreads may require 350 to 500 crewmembers per spread.

“The county and cities will see a noticeable economic activity,” he said.

Kansas isn’t the first state this company has laid pipe. Construction in other parts of the country has been occurring for the past two years.

Will any of this crude oil go to Kansas refineries?

“All of the oil will be delivered to Cushing, Okla.,” Prescott said. “Most refineries in Kansas have their own pipeline route to Cushing.”

He continued that the refinery in Cushing is considered a “hub” with storage facilities to accommodate the massive transporting.

When asked if there will be additional public meetings in Marion County to address concerns, Prescott said there would be later.

“We’re almost a year away from beginning construction,” he said. “Right now we’re focusing on landowners and the permit process at the state and county level,” he said.

The project does not require conditional use permits because easements are being issued.

Tax exemptions

One issue being addressed by Dickinson County Commission is that Kansas has given the oil company an exemption from paying property taxes — ever.

The commission sent a two-page letter to state senators and representatives asking why Keystone Pipeline is exempt.

According to the letter, Dickinson County officials were told by Keystone that the company would pay property taxes in other states they cross and operate in and Keystone never sought an exemption from Kansas property taxes.

Officials were told that a member of the legislature who negotiated with the pipeline company used the property tax exemption as a means to entice Keystone to cross the state and connect oil refineries in southern Kansas with the pipeline.

Before the exemption was granted, Keystone officials told Dickinson County officials that the county could garner up to $300,000 in annual tax revenues from the pipeline project, which indicated the company had every intention of paying taxes.

Marion County legislators were contacted for comment. A response was received from State Rep. Bob Brookens who said he would check into the matter.

Last modified July 8, 2009

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