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1 Dead, Several Injured in Colonial Pipeline Explosion

Energy

Less than two months after the Colonial Pipeline in Shelby County, Alabama, spilled 336,000 gallons of gasoline, the same pipeline exploded, killing one and injuring at least five. The pipeline is shut once again, threatening gasoline supplies in the East and sending prices soaring.

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The explosion occurred about one mile from the site of the previous leak. A crew of nine were conducting maintenance on the pipeline when a track hoe, similar to an excavator, struck Line 1. Gasoline exploded, killing one worker at the scene. Five others were transported to UAB Hospital in Birmingham. Several others, who were not in critical condition, were expected to be sent to area hospitals and many will need decontamination.

Fires from the explosion continue to burn as of this morning. Two wildfires set off by the accident burned 37 acres, and forestry crews were reported to have established a three-mile perimeter.

Colonial Pipeline shut down its two main lines, which feed gasoline, diesel and jet fuel to markets in the East. Colonial supplies about one-third of the 3.2 million barrels per day of gasoline consumed on the East Coast.

Gasoline prices immediately spiked as news spread, with futures prices up as much as 13 percent last night and more than 10 percent this morning. The Georgia chapter of the AAA said they expect to see fuel prices jump in the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic.

Thick smoke around the area of the fire and explosion led to aircraft flight restrictions, which is due to be lifted at 10 a.m. Eastern time this morning.

The troubled pipeline company has had five spills in Alabama so far this year and 128 across its 5,500-mile system since 2010. This incident is the first known to have caused death or injury. By conservative estimates, Colonial has spilled at least 450,000 gallons of fuel into the environment since 2010.

As reported last month by EcoWatch, the number of significant pipeline incidents in the U.S. grew 26.8 percent from 2006 to 2015.

"There have been more than 220 pipeline disasters in the last year. Sadly, this one had a fatality and continues to burn many hours after it exploded," said Donna Lisenby of Waterkeeper Alliance.

"Many other pipeline spills contaminated waterways. This troubling track record of death and contamination indicates that pipeline operators are not safely maintaining existing pipelines. They are putting profits over people. It is time to recognize pipelines are not a safe way to transport oil and gas. For the sake of our communities and clean water, we need to stop building pipelines."

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