1 Dead, 5 Injured in Second Enbridge Pipeline Explosion This Year
A natural gas pipeline owned by Canadian company Enbridge exploded in Kentucky early Thursday, sending flames 300 feet into the sky, killing one woman and sending five people to the hospital, CBS News reported. The blast was so strong it showed up on radar.
"It was like an atomic bomb went off, basically," one evacuee told WKYT, as CBS News reported. All told, around 75 people were forced to flee their homes in the Indian Camp trailer park in Moreland, The Associated Press reported.
The explosion occurred around 1 a.m. It destroyed at least five homes in the trailer park and damaged four others, The Louisville Courier Journal reported. It took firefighters hours to fight the flames, which burned trees and grass in the area and left only red dirt behind, according to The Associated Press.
"The part of the area that has been compromised, there's just nothing left," Lincoln County Emergency Management Director Don Gilliam said. "The residences that are still standing or damaged will be accessible. There doesn't really look like there's any in-between back there. They're either destroyed or they're still standing."
The flames also melted tar on the nearby U.S. 127 and were visible throughout Lincoln County. The smoke could be seen from Louisville, 70 miles away, according to The Louisville Courier Journal.
Jodie Coulter, one of the five people injured, described the blast.
"I could feel it as we were running from the house," Coulter told The Louisville Courier Journal. "I could feel it, like if you had your hand in an oven."
The woman who died was identified as 58-year-old Lisa Denise Derringer, one of Coulter's neighbors in the mobile home park. Kentucky State Police spokesman Robert Purdy said she may have left her home because of the fire and died from heat exposure, as The Associated Press reported.
Nearby railway tracks were also damaged, causing an overnight back-up of 31 trains, Purdy said.
The explosion was the second this year on Enbridge's Texas Eastern natural gas pipeline, Reuters pointed out. Another explosion in Ohio in January on the same line injured two. But, as Quartz summarized, Enbridge overall has a history of disasters from both its natural gas and liquid oil pipelines. Its lines were behind both the Kalamazoo River spill, which dumped around one million gallons of tar sands oil into the Michigan waterway in 2010, and a 50,000 gallon oil spill in Wisconsin in 2012. A Greenpeace report found that the company averaged one hazardous liquid pipeline accident every 20 days between 2002 and 2018.
Despite its record, the company is behind a controversial plan to replace its aging line 5 pipelines with an oil-transport tunnel under Michigan's Straits of Mackinac in the Great Lakes.
Washington Gov. and climate-focused presidential candidate Jay Inslee came out against both the existing pipelines and the proposed tunnel last month, calling them "a clear and present threat to the health of the Great Lakes and to our climate" in a statement reported by The Detroit News.
But the dangers of fossil fuel use are bigger than one company. Environmental group Earthworks noted that the Kentucky explosion was the fourth involving oil and gas infrastructure in the last two days.
We've been devastated to hear the news of explosions at fossil fuel and #petrochemical facilities in #Colorado #Texas #Pennsylvania and #Kentucky in just the past 2 days.— EARTHWORKS (@Earthworks) August 1, 2019
We cannot wait to get off #fossilfuels. We need a #JustTransition now. https://t.co/N8Dm6xGAEu @melissat22 pic.twitter.com/tRj3h0AKMw
"These incidents are just the latest in a growing list of injurious and deadly fossil fuel impacts across the United States," Earthworks blogger Melissa Troutman wrote. "As the renewable energy revolution continues to grow, these events are a tragic reminder of what our society has yet to leave behind."
Maryland will become the first state in the nation Thursday to implement a ban on foam takeout containers.
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Kevin T. Smiley
When hurricanes and other extreme storms unleash downpours like Tropical Storm Beta has been doing in the South, the floodwater doesn't always stay within the government's flood risk zones.
New research suggests that nearly twice as many properties are at risk from a 100-year flood today than the Federal Emergency Management Agency's flood maps indicate.
Flooding Outside the Zones<p>About <a href="https://furmancenter.org/files/Floodplain_PopulationBrief_12DEC2017.pdf" target="_blank">15 million</a> Americans live in FEMA's current 100-year flood zones. The designation warns them that their properties face a 1% risk of flooding in any given year. They must obtain flood insurance if they want a federally ensured loan – insurance that helps them recover from flooding.</p><p>In Greater Houston, however, <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1539-6924.2012.01840.x" target="_blank">47% of claims</a> made to FEMA across three decades before Hurricane Harvey were outside of the 100-year flood zones. Harris County, recognizing that FEMA flood maps don't capture the full risk, now <a href="https://www.hcfcd.org/floodinsurance" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">recommends that every household</a> in Houston and the rest of the county have flood insurance.</p><p>New risk models point to a similar conclusion: Flood risk in these areas outstrips expectations in the current FEMA flood maps.</p><p>One of those models, from the <a href="https://firststreet.org/flood-lab/research/2020-national-flood-risk-assessment-highlights/" target="_blank">First Street Foundation</a>, estimates that the number of properties at risk in a 100-year storm is 1.7 times higher than the FEMA maps suggest. Other <a href="https://doi.org/10.1088/1748-9326/aaac65" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">researchers</a> find an even higher margin, with 2.6 to 3.1 times more people exposed to serious flooding in a 100-year storm than FEMA estimates.</p>
What FEMA’s Flood Maps Miss<p>Understanding why areas outside the 100-year flood zones are flooding more often than the FEMA maps suggest involves larger social and environmental issues. Three reasons stand out.</p><p>First, some places rely on relatively old FEMA maps that don't account for recent urbanization.</p><p>Urbanization matters because impervious surfaces – think pavement and buildings – are not effective sponges like natural landscapes can be. Moreover, the process for updating floodplain maps is locally variable and can take years to complete. Famously, New York City was updating its maps when Hurricane Sandy hit in 2012 but hadn't finished, meaning flood maps in effect <a href="https://projects.propublica.org/nyc-flood/" target="_blank">were from 1983</a>. FEMA is required to assess whether updates are needed every five years, but the <a href="https://www.fema.gov/cis/nation.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">majority of maps</a> <a href="https://www.oig.dhs.gov/sites/default/files/assets/2017/OIG-17-110-Sep17.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">are older</a>.</p><p>Second, binary thinking can lead people to an underaccounting of risk, and that can mean communities fail to take steps that could protect a neighborhood from flooding. The logic goes: if I'm not in the 100-year floodplain, then I'm not at risk. Risk perception <a href="https://doi.org/10.1088/1748-9326/ab195a" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">research</a> backs this up. FEMA-delineated flood zones are the major factor shaping flood mitigation behaviors.</p><p>Third, the era of climate change scuttles conventional assumptions.</p><p>As the planet warms, extreme storms are becoming <a href="https://nca2018.globalchange.gov/" target="_blank">more common and severe</a>. If greenhouse gas emissions continue to increase at a high rate, computer models suggest that the chances of a severe storm dropping 20 inches of rain on Texas in any given year will increase from about 1% at the end of the last century to 18% at the end of this one, a chance of <a href="https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1716222114" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">once every 5.5 years</a>. So far, <a href="https://www.rstreet.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/195.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">FEMA hasn't taken into account the impact climate change is having</a> on extreme weather and sea level rise.</p>
Racial Disparities in Flooding Outside the Zones<p>So, who is at risk?</p><p>Years of research and evidence from storms have highlighted social inequalities in areas with a high risk of flooding. But most local governments have less understanding of the social and demographic composition of communities that experience flood impacts outside of flood zones.</p><p>In analyzing the damage from Hurricane Harvey in the Houston area, I found that <a href="https://doi.org/10.1088/1748-9326/aba0fe" target="_blank">Black and Hispanic residents disproportionately experienced flooding</a> in areas beyond FEMA's 100-year flood zones.</p><p>With the majority of flooding from Hurricane Harvey occurring outside of 100-year flood zones, this meant that the overall impact of Harvey was racially unequal too.</p><p>Research into where flooding occurs in Baltimore, Chicago and Phoenix points to some of the potential causes. <a href="https://www.nap.edu/read/25381/chapter/4#16" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">In Baltimore and Chicago</a>, for example, aging storm and sewer infrastructure, poor construction and insufficient efforts to mitigate flooding are part of the flooding problem in some predominantly Black neighborhoods.</p>
What Can Be Done About It<p>Better accounting for those three reasons could substantively improve risk assessments and help cities prioritize infrastructure improvements and flood mitigation projects in these at-risk neighborhoods.</p><p>For example, First Street Foundation's risk maps account for <a href="https://firststreet.org/flood-lab/research/flood-model-methodology_overview/" target="_blank">climate change</a> and present <a href="https://floodfactor.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">ratings</a> on a scale from 1 to 10. FEMA, which works with communities to update flood maps, is <a href="https://www.fema.gov/media-library-data/1521054297905-ca85d066dddb84c975b165db653c9049/TMAC_2017_Annual_Report_Final508(v8)_03-12-2018.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">exploring rating systems</a>. And the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine recently <a href="https://www.nationalacademies.org/news/2019/03/new-report-calls-for-different-approaches-to-predict-and-understand-urban-flooding" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">called for a new generation of flood maps</a> that takes climate change into account.</p><p>Including recent urbanization in those assessments will matter too, especially in fast-growing cities like Houston, where <a href="https://authors.elsevier.com/a/1boBRyDvMFW6W" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">386 new square miles</a> of impervious surfaces were created in the last 20 years. That's greater than the land area of New York City. New construction in one area can also <a href="https://scalawagmagazine.org/2018/01/city-in-a-swamp-as-houston-booms-its-flood-problems-are-only-getting-worse/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">impact older neighborhoods downhill</a> during a flood, as some Houston communities discovered in Hurricane Harvey.</p><p>Improving risk assessments is needed not just to better prepare communities for major flood events, but also to prevent racial inequalities – in housing and beyond – from <a href="https://www.npr.org/2019/03/05/688786177/how-federal-disaster-money-favors-the-rich" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">growing</a> after the unequal impacts of disasters.</p>
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