Report: 90% of Pipeline Blasts Draw No Financial Penalties
A striking report has revealed that 90 percent of the 137 interstate pipeline fires or explosions since 2010 have drawn no financial penalties for the companies responsible.
The article from E&E News reporter Mike Soraghan underscores the federal Pipelines and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration's (PHMSA) weak authority over the fossil fuel industry for these disasters.
The government levied a mere $5.4 million in fines for the 13 pipeline explosion and fire cases in the last eight years, the analysis found.
One of the country's largest natural gas pipeline accidents—the 2010 San Bruno, California pipeline explosion that resulted in eight deaths—fell under state jurisdiction rather than PHMSA. California authorities imposed a record $1.6 billion fine against Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E).
Although serious pipeline incidents are relatively rare—at least when you consider how much natural gas is transported every day by the country's 3 million miles of mainline and other pipelines—it's little solace to the people who have suffered from pipeline accidents.
Citing PHMSA data, the Washington Post reported that more than 300 people have died and 1,200 have been injured due to natural gas pipeline incidents in the last 20 years—and the nation's aging gas distribution network further increases these risks.
But new gas pipelines explode, too. TransCanada's Leach XPress project, which was placed in-service on Jan. 1, exploded in Marshall County, West Virginia in June. A 24-inch natural gas line, owned by Texas-based Energy Transfer Partners and its subsidiary Sunoco, exploded in Beaver County, Pennsylvania in September a week after it was activated.
These risks have prompted calls from environmentalists and concerned citizens to halt new fracked gas projects such as the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and Mountain Valley Pipeline, which have both lost key permits in recent weeks.
"Those who disregard the public's widespread opposition to fracked gas pipelines seemingly always point to how safe they are and closely watched they'll be. Nothing could be further from the truth," the Sierra Club's Beyond Dirty Fuels campaign director Kelly Martin said in an online statement in response to the E&E News article.
"We know we can't expect corporate polluters to look out for our health, but we should be able to count on our enforcement agencies to protect us. Stories like these show exactly why we should never build another fracked gas pipeline, especially when clean, renewable energy sources are abundant and affordable," Martin concluded.
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The move comes after regional authorities declared a state of emergency over the weekend after sightings of more than 50 bears in the town of Belushya Guba since December.
This year's letter from Bill and Melinda Gates focused on nine things that surprised them. For the Microsoft-cofounder, one thing he was surprised to learn was the massive amount of new buildings the planet should expect in the coming decades due to urban population growth.
"The number of buildings in the world is going to double by 2060. It's like we're going to build a new New York City every month for the next 40 years," he said.
By Shana Udvardy
After a dearth of action on climate change and a record year of extreme events in 2017, the inclusion of climate change policies within the annual legislation Congress considers to outline its defense spending priorities (the National Defense Authorization Act) for fiscal year 2018 was welcome progress. House and Senate leaders pushed to include language that mandated that the Department of Defense (DoD) incorporate climate change in their facility planning (see more on what this section of the bill does here and here) as well as issue a report on the impacts of climate change on military installations. Unfortunately, what DoD produced fell far short of what was mandated.
Trump is losing his rallying cry to save coal. The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) voted on Thursday to retire two coal-fired power plants in the next few years despite a plea from the president to keep one of the plants open.
Earlier this week, the president posted an oddly specific tweet that urged the government-owned utility to save the 49-year-old Paradise 3 plant in Kentucky. It so happens that the facility burns coal supplied by Murray Energy Corporation, whose CEO is Robert Murray, is a major Trump donor.