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Methods of Crude Oil Transport: Relative Risks and Benefits

September 2014

Citation: ELR 10731

Author: Kris Barney, John J. Jablonski, George "Casey" Hopkins, Michaela E. Noble, Connie S. Roseberry, and Anthony Swift

As America’s oil and natural gas boom spreads across the country, producers are finding it difficult to get oil from the wells to market. Pipeline capacity is limited, and shipping crude by rail has raised concerns in the media. What are the relative risks and merits of different methods of shipping crude oil long distance? Rail, ship, and pipeline each have pros and cons, risks and benefits. On May 7, 2014, the Environmental Law Institute convened a panel of experts to explore the regulatory realm of each option. Without demonizing any form of transport, the session raised awareness about the complex trade offs between these options, when they are options. This dialogue presents a transcript of the event, which has been edited for style, clarity, and space considerations.

Kris Barney, Manager, Professional Education Program, Environmental Law Institute. John J. Jablonski, Partner, Goldberg Segalla (moderator). George “Casey” Hopkins, Partner, Vinson & Elkins LLP. Michaela E. Noble, Chief, Environmental Law Division, Office of Maritime and International Law, United States Coast Guard/The Judge Advocate General, U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Connie S. Roseberry, General Attorney, Union Pacific Railroad Company. Anthony Swift, Staff Attorney, International Program, Natural Resources Defense Council.

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