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Discussion at OU turned to debate over pipelines

Olivier Rey / Red Dirt Report
Speakers present during the Diamond Pipeline discussion on April 11 at OU (l-r): Ramadan Ahmed, Mike Stice, Kristen van de Biezenbos, Taiawagi Helton, David Sabatini, Kevin Kemper and Casey Holcomb.
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NORMAN, Okla. – Academics, lawyers and activists were united by the University of Oklahoma Green Week to talk about the Diamond Pipeline by Plains All America Pipeline.

Eight panelists were present including Casey Holcomb, Sierra Club organizer and seven academics from OU, Kevin Kemper, a lecturer of Native American philosophy, David Sabatini, professor and specialist in wastewater treatment, Mike Stice, the dean of the College of Earth and Energy, Kristen van de Biezenbos, professor of law, Taiawagi Helton, a professor on environmental, property and Indian laws and Ramadan Ahmed, a professor of Petroleum Engineering.

The event was sponsored by the College of Architecture and the Society of Petroleum Engineers, a situation that made Holcomb believe the event was more of propaganda for the petroleum lobby.

More than 100 students as well as Norman residents and activists were present to listen to the discussion. Allyson Wiley, organizer of the event and the president of OUr Earth said the discussion was initially to propose academic viewpoints on pipeline issues rather than a debate over the pros and cons of pipelines observed during the discussion.

“This was meant to be a scholarship discussion,” Wiley said.

Wiley wanted to bring together two opposed groups, in this case environmentalist and pro-pipeline, hoping they would discuss and collaborate to build a sustainable world that is good for everyone.

“We need to break down that barrier,” Wiley said.

Casey Holcomb speaking at the discussion on April 11.

Starting with a presentation of each speaker, the discussion eventually turned into a debate with on one side the environmentalists Holcomb and Kemper. Both pointed out the risk of pipeline leaks as observed around the country.

“Are pipelines worth enough to expand the militarized resources to defend the economic interests?” Kemper asked, in reference to the events that happened at Standing Rock.

“We don’t need to develop new fossil fuel infrastructure here,” Holcomb said.

Kristen van de Biezenbos speaking at the discussion on April 11.

At the opposite, van de Biezenbos, Stice and Ahmed were profoundly supporting the oil and gas industry. The principal arguments invoked by the pro-pipeline is that pipelines are cheaper and safer than trains and trucks.

“We have pipeline because we need a way to move oil and gas,” van de Biezenbos said.

“The pipeline is safe in comparison to other options,” Ahmed said.

“The quality of the pipeline is much superior today than what we made 20 years ago,” Stice said.

Mike Stice speaking at the pipeline discussion on April 11.

Helton and Sabatini were more moderators in their speeches, conscious that both sides needed to collaborate together. Helton believes federal agencies should represent everyone and not only the corporations, and that citizens should be more engaged in the process.

“There is a shocking lack of regulation of oil pipelines,” Helton said.

Besides the discussion, some attendees were concerned about the high numbers of pipelines passing through tribes’ lands, the non-respect of tribes’ sovereignty and its environmental effects. van de Biezenbos said oil and gas companies try to buy the cheapest lands that are often situated in tribes’ territory such as observed in North Dakota and Oklahoma.

“It is one of the reasons they don’t put pipelines through urban communities,” van de Biezenbos said.

Carrie Leslie, an anthropology student at OU, who attended the discussion, said to Red Dirt Report that the presence of tribe members would have been better for the discussion.

Behind the pretty name of the College of Earth and Energy, which Stice is the dean lays the Mewbourne School of Petroleum and Geological Engineering, the ConocoPhillips School of Geology and Geophysics, and the Oklahoma Geological Survey.

Plains All America Pipeline Company is an important partner to the University of Oklahoma via donations, advertisements, sponsorships to students and presence as faculty members. Besides Stice, James Ferrel, the vice president of Supply Chain of Plains All American Pipeline and Mark J. Gorman, the executive vice president Operations and Business Development for Plains All American Pipeline are two of the executives MBA in Energy at the Price College of Business of OU.

For more information on oil and gas industries in the U.S. go on EIA’s website and click on this link for data about pipelines leaks in the country.

Photos by Red Dirt Report’s Olivier Rey.

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Olivier Rey

Olivier has traveled in 20 countries on six continents before landing in Norman. Native French...

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Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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