Fargo Forum: Veteran pipeline worker doubles as environmental watchdog

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WATFORD CITY, N.D. — As Evan Whiteford drives around the Bakken, he can easily spot pipelines with poor quality work.

"Once you notice it, you'll see it everywhere," said Whiteford, pointing to pathways of sparse or dead vegetation.

But in other areas, the former pipeliner points out past construction zones where vegetation is flourishing on the pipeline right-of-way.

"If it's good, you can drive right by it and not even know it's there," he said.

Whiteford, 34, is working to increase the number of successful pipelines in North Dakota as an organizer for the Laborers' International Union of North America North Dakota.


Julie Fedorchak, chairwoman of the Public Service Commission, said the union's involvement has been helpful because they represent a large group of people who are affected by pipeline projects.

"They also offer technical insights as well that are valuable to us in terms of best practices, good construction techniques, and they alert us to issues," Fedorchak said.

But to Whiteford, the problem pipelines are typically not the ones regulated by the PSC and federal regulators, but the smaller gathering lines that have so far had minimal oversight.

"They're the ones that are the most damaging right now in this area, as far as reclamation issues, leaking, not knowing what's happening with them," Whiteford said.

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