AMERICA’S DANGEROUS PIPELINES
Analysis by Richard Stover, Ph.D., and the Center for Biological Diversity
A new analysis of oil and gas pipeline safety in the United States reveals a troubling history of spills, contamination, injuries and deaths.
|This time-lapse video shows pipeline incidents from 1986 |
to 2013, relying on publicly available data from the federal
Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.
Only incidents classified as “significant” by the agency
are shown in the video. “Significant” incidents include
those in which someone was hospitalized or killed,
damages amounted to more than $50,000, more than
5 barrels of highly volatile substances or 50 barrels of
other liquid were released, or where the liquid exploded
Popular viral website Upworthy calls this video
"One Time-lapse Big Oil Doesn't Want You to See."
According to the data, since 1986 there have been nearly
8,000 incidents (nearly 300 per year on average), resulting
in more than 500 deaths (red dots on the video), more
than 2,300 injuries (yellow dots on the video), and nearly
$7 billion in damage.
Since 1986 pipeline accidents have spilled an average
of 76,000 barrels per year or more than 3 million gallons.
This is equivalent to 200 barrels every day.
Oil is by far the most commonly spilled substance,
followed by natural gas and gasoline. The data does
not separate oil by whether it is light crude or heavy
crude typical of tar sands oil, which has proven
exceedingly difficult to clean up and is the variety
that would flow in the Keystone XL pipeline.
There are a number of reasons for pipeline spills,
including damage during excavation operations,
metal failure, improper operation and corrosion.
Pipeline failures are concentrated in states with a long
history of oil and gas development like Texas and
California, but have caused damage to people,
property and the environment in all 48 contiguous
In most cases, cleanup of pipeline spills is only
partially successful, leaving tens of thousands of
barrels of oil on our land or in our water. On average,
the government’s data shows that more than 31,000
barrels of oil or other substances are not cleaned up
following pipeline incidents, and in some years many
more barrels are left, polluting our environment for
years to come.
|Kalamazoo pipeline spill photo courtesy Flickr/k6martini|