Category Archives: Pipeline rupture

U.S. Government Just Approved an Enormous Oil Pipeline

Repost from Mother Jones

The Government Quietly Just Approved This Enormous Oil Pipeline

Four reasons why people are outraged.

By Alexander Sammon, Aug. 12, 2016 6:00 AM
ewg3D/Thinkstock

It took seven years of protests, sit-ins, letter writing, and, finally, a presidential review to prevent the Keystone XL oil pipeline from being built. Now, in a matter of months, America’s newest mega-pipeline—the Dakota Access Pipeline Project (DAPL)—has quietly received full regulatory permission to begin construction. Known also as the Bakken Pipeline, the project is slated to run 1,172 miles of 30-inch diameter pipe from North Dakota’s northwest Bakken region down to a market hub outside Patoka, Illinois, where it will join extant pipelines and travel onward to refineries and markets in the Gulf and on the East Coast. If that description gives you déjà vu, it should: The Bakken Pipeline is only seven miles shorter than Keystone’s proposed length.

The proposed route of the recently approved Bakken Pipeline – Dakota Access

The $3.78 billion project is being built by Dakota Access, LLC, a unit of the Texas-based Energy Transfer Partners. (Former Texas Gov. Rick Perrya friend of Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, sits on ETP’s board.) According to the firm, the Bakken Pipeline will transport up to 570,000 barrels of crude oil per day. Advocates have celebrated the supposed 12,000 jobs the pipeline will create in construction, while repeating calls to end American dependence on foreign oil—a platform called into question by new laws allowing US producers to export crude. The US Army Corps of Engineers gave its blessing at the end of July, clearing the final hurdle for the massive infrastructure project, which is slated to be operational by the fourth quarter of 2016.

Though the project hasn’t gotten too much national media attention, there’s been plenty of local opposition. Groups like the Bakken Pipeline Resistance Coalition, a collective of 30-plus environmentalists’ and landowners’ associations, along with Native American groups, have cried foul. Here are the four things they’re most outraged by:

How many jobs…really: According to Dakota Access’s DAPL fact sheet, the pipeline will create 8,000 to 12,000 construction jobs. An earlier draft of those figures claimed 7,263 “job-years” to be created in Iowa alone. Not so fast, says professor David Swenson, associate scientist in the Department of Economics at Iowa State University. Swenson crunched the numbers himself and came to a much more modest conclusion: 1,500 jobs total per year in Iowa for the course of construction. And given that most of these jobs are skilled, Swenson expects many of the hires will be from out of state, as Iowan contractors specializing in large-scale underground pipe-fitting and welding are scarce. The long-term forecast for job creation is even bleaker. The Des Moines Register reports that there will only be 12 to 15 permanent employees once the pipeline is completed. (DAPL has since walked back its job estimate slightly.)

Spill, baby, spill: As Sierra Club’s Michael Brune puts it, “It’s not a question if a pipeline will malfunction, but rather a question of when.” And, though they spill less often than trains do, the International Energy Agency found that pipelines spill much more in terms of volume—three times as much between 2004 and 2012. The Bakken Pipeline’s route takes it through active farmland, forests, and across the heartland’s major rivers: The Big Sioux, the Missouri, and the Mississippi, some with multiple crossings, though the US Fish and Wildlife Service claims that no “critical habitat” is endangered. It also runs through sacred Native American lands (more on this below).

Enbridge Inc., a stakeholder in the Bakken pipeline, has a speckled track record on spills. In 2010, an Enbridge pipeline spilled 1.2 million gallons of crude into the Kalamazoo River, one of the worst inland spills in American history. Because the pipeline qualifies as a utility (despite being privately owned and for-profit), the Army Corps of Engineers was able to certify it without performing an environmental impact statement, as all utilities projects qualify as “minimal impact.” These projects are subject to environmental assessments every five years.

Don’t tread on me: Private property owners, particularly in Iowa, have bristled at the Bakken Pipeline’s expropriation of land. ETP asked the Iowa Utilities Board to grant it the powers of eminent domain, the process by which a government can repossess private property for public use even if the private property owner does not voluntarily sell. The IUB, a three-person committee appointed by Republican Gov. Terry Branstad, granted ETP that right for its for-profit private pipeline, a practice that is not uncommon, in order to purchase 475 parcels from resistant landowners. This has led to numerous pending lawsuits, with the Des Moines Register reporting that the issue may make it all the way to the Iowa Supreme Court. In May 2015, ETP was embroiled in scandal after a contracted land agent, working on behalf of the Bakken Pipeline, allegedly offered an Iowan landowner a teenage prostitute in exchange for voluntary access to his property. (No charges were brought after the Iowa Department of Criminal Investigation determined that the case did not meet the legal standard for pimping, solicitation, or conspiracy.)

DisRezpect: The pipeline will cross through sacred lands and pass under the Missouri River twice. For the Standing Rock Sioux, the Missouri provides drinking water and irrigation, while its riverbanks grow innumerable plants of cultural import, including sage and buffalo berries. The tribe launched a campaign called “Rezpect Our Water” and staged a 500-mile relay race in protest, hoping to sway the Army Corps of Engineers in the permitting process. Last weekend, a group of 30 Native youth completed a three-week run from North Dakota to Washington, DC, where they delivered a petition of 160,000 signatures opposing the pipeline’s construction.

Now, even though the Corps has given the go-ahead, the tribe has not given up the fight. They recently filed suit against the Corps in federal court. The suit seeks an injunction, asserting that the pipeline will “damage and destroy sites of great historic, religious, and cultural significance,” a violation of the National Historic Preservation Act.

Though the pipeline seems to be a done deal, resistance of all types continues. Last week, the Des Moines Register reported that authorities are investigating suspected arson against the ETP’s heavy machinery. The fires, three separate incidents across two Iowa counties, resulted in nearly $1 million in damage to bulldozers and backhoes. The acts appeared to be intentional incidents of monkeywrenching.

On Thursday, a group of protesters, including the Standing Rock Sioux and their allies, gathered in North Dakota to oppose the pipeline, blocking the construction site. The police ultimately broke up the demonstration, resulting in at least five arrests.

No Dakota Access pipeline from Camp of the Sacred Stones blockade @POTUS@FLOTUS@USACEHQ
2:03 PM – 11 Aug 2016

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KQED: Pipeline at Center of Altamont Pass Oil Spill Also Ruptured Last September

Repost from KQED
[Editor: A colleague reports that “The Altomont Pass pipeline brings heavy crude oil from southern San Joaquin Valley oilfields to some of our Bay Area refineries.”  – RS]

Pipeline at Center of Altamont Pass Oil Spill Also Ruptured Last September

By Ted Goldberg, May 24, 2016

California’s fire marshal has launched an investigation into an oil pipeline rupture that spilled at least 20,000 gallons of crude near Tracy over the weekend — eight months after the same pipeline had a break in a similar location.

Shell Pipeline crews are still cleaning up from the most recent spill near Interstate 580 and the border between Alameda and San Joaquin counties four days after the 24-inch diameter line broke.

Crews with the oil giant were able to complete repairs on the pipe on Monday, according to a Shell official.

The pipeline stretches from Coalinga in Fresno County to Martinez.

The rupture on the line was first reported at 3 a.m. on Friday, said Lisa Medina, an environmental specialist at the San Joaquin County Environmental Health Department.

Shell discovered a loss of pressure in the pipeline, filed a report with the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services and then shut the line down.

San Joaquin County officials believe the spill covered an area 250 feet long by 40 feet wide, Medina said in an interview.

A preliminary test of the pipeline found a split of approximately 18 to 20 inches in length, said company spokesman Ray Fisher in an email.

Fisher also confirmed that the same pipeline ruptured and caused an oil spill in the same vicinity, near West Patterson Pass Road, last Sept. 17.

Here’s a link to Shell’s report on that incident that found the rupture spilled 21,000 gallons of oil, about the same amount as Friday’s break.

Fisher said Shell inspects its pipelines every three years, and the company conducted an inspection of the line after the September incident.

He added that the line has no history of corrosion problems.

It’s unclear what caused the most recent spill.

On Tuesday, state fire officials confirmed that the Office of the State Fire Marshal had opened a probe into the pipeline rupture.

Federal regulators are not investigating the break, but are providing technical support to the state, said an official with the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.

The spill prompted concerns from environmentalists.

Sierra Club representatives pointed out that the spill near the Altamont Pass came weeks after Shell spilled about 90,000 gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico and a year after a major spill involving another company’s pipeline on the Santa Barbara County coast.

“Sadly, it’s become undeniable that oil spills will remain the status quo if we continue our dependence on dirty fuels,” said the Sierra Club’s Lena Moffitt in a statement. “This is just Shell’s latest disaster and the company has done nothing to assuage fears that it can stop its reckless actions.”

“The environmental impacts could be very serious,” Patrick Sullivan, a spokesman for the Center for Biological Diversity, said in an interview. Sullivan said the spill could hurt birds and other animals in the area and could contaminate nearby groundwater.

State water regulators, though, say they’re not concerned the spill could affect water in the area.

“Given the location and the relatively limited extent of the spill, it is highly unlikely that the spill would affect underlying  groundwater and even more unlikely that it would impact any drinking water supplies,” said Miryam Baras, a spokeswoman for the State Water Resources Control Board, in an email.

Sullivan also questioned whether Shell’s statements on the size of the oil spill were correct.

“We don’t know how much oil has been spilled,” Sullivan said. “With previous pipeline spills the initial estimates have sometimes turned out to be wrong. They’ve turned out to be under-estimates.”

Fisher, the Shell spokesman, said the company had not revised its estimates.

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SANTA BARBARA: Company charged in crude oil spill that fouled beaches

Repost from the San Francisco Chronicle, SFGate

Company charged in crude oil spill that fouled beaches

By Brian Melley, Associated Press, Updated May 18, 2016 2:01 pm
FILE – In this May 21, 2015, file photo, an oil-covered bird flaps its wings amid at Refugio State Beach, north of Goleta, Calif. Plains All American Pipeline said in a statement Tuesday, May 17, 2016, that a California grand jury has indicted the company and one of its employees in connection with the pipeline break.

A Texas pipeline company responsible for spilling more than 140,000 gallons of crude oil on the California coast last year was indicted on dozens of criminal charges in the disaster that closed popular beaches and killed sea lions and birds, prosecutors said Tuesday.

Plains All American Pipeline and one of its employees face 46 counts of state law violations in the May 19, 2015, spill that initially went undetected until oil began pouring onto a pristine beach on the Santa Barbara coastline and into the ocean.

Initial investigations by federal regulators found the 2-foot-wide underground pipeline was severely corroded where it broke on land.

Plains is charged with four felony counts of spilling oil in state waters and could face fines of up to $2.8 million if convicted of all the charges, prosecutors said.

“The carelessness of Plains All American harmed hundreds of species and marine life off Refugio Beach,” California Attorney General Kamala Harris said in a statement. “This conduct is criminal, and today’s charges serve as a powerful reminder of the consequences that flow from jeopardizing the well-being of our ecosystems and public health.”

Plains said the spill was an accident and believes no criminal behavior occurred.

“We will demonstrate that the charges have no merit and represent an inappropriate attempt to criminalize an unfortunate accident,” the company said.

The spill came two weeks before Memorial Day weekend last year and forced the state to close popular beaches as an oil sheen spread over miles of the Pacific Ocean. More than 300 dead animals, including pelicans and sea lions, were found in the aftermath, and tar balls from the spill drifted more than 100 miles away to Los Angeles beaches.

The Houston company faces three dozen misdemeanor counts of harming wildlife.

A Plains employee and the company also are accused of failing to report the spill quickly enough to state emergency officials. An investigation by federal regulators found that it took hours for Plains to recognize what happened and notify officials.

A worker removes oil in 2015 at Refugio State Beach, north of Goleta. An underground pipe, owned by Plains All American Pipeline of Texas, spewed 140,000 gallons of oil into the Pacific. Jae C. Hong / Associated Press 2015
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