Yet Another Reminder that Dirty Oil Pipelines Are Never Safe
By Catherine Collentine
This week, a federal court ruled that the Obama administration over-penalized Exxon for dumping hundreds of thousands of gallons of a pollutant onto the streets of Mayflower and threw out a number of safety violations levied against Exxon on the basis that the company met its legal obligations to consider the risks associated with the pipeline.
In the court's decision, Judge Jennifer Walker Elrod noted, "The unfortunate fact of the matter is that, despite adherence to safety guidelines and regulations, oil spills still do occur."
Just think about that for a minute. The court ruled that even if a pipeline spill devastates a community, if the company can prove they followed safety guidelines, they shouldn't be held accountable for the damage they caused. That oil spills that threaten communities across the country are to be expected—just the "unfortunate" price we all have to pay for oil companies to transport their dirty product to market.
We've long argued that it's never a question of if a pipeline will spill, but when, and how much damage it will cause when it does. A recent report from Greenpeace bears this out, analyzing the track records of the companies behind major proposed tar sands pipeline projects including Keystone XL and the Line 3 pipeline expansion. These three companies, TransCanada, Kinder Morgan, Enbridge, and their subsidiaries, have had 373 spills from their pipelines in the U.S. since 2010. That's an average of one significant incident and a total of about 570 barrels of oil spilled per year for every 1,000 miles of pipe. Based on these rates, Keystone XL could expect 59 significant spills over its 50-year lifetime and the Line 3 expansion could expect about 51.
As we await decisions from local regulators on the fates of the Keystone XL and Line 3 pipelines, it is clear that dirty oil pipelines are not in the interest of the communities they would run through and should be rejected.
Catherine Collentine is a tar sands campaign representative for the Sierra Club.
By 2018 Ocean Heroes: Claire MacQueen (13 years old), Sabine Thomas (13) and Ava Inskeep (14)
We despise single-use plastics. We want to keep our oceans and our beaches clean. Early last year I (Claire) lived in India for several months and became curious about plastic waste, as it was much more visible in India than back home in the U.S. Seeing all the plastic waste while I was visiting helped me to understand that much of the trash produced by the U.S. actually ends up in developing countries, like India, which does not have a proper waste management system like we do at home, which causes a ton of trash to end up in waterways and the ocean.
In a case watched closely both by polluting industries and clean water advocates across the nation, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to take up an appeal of a Clean Water Act case out of Hawaii concerning treated sewage flowing into the Pacific Ocean from injection wells.