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Did You Know a 36-inch Pipeline Rupture Can Release 13,000 Barrels of Heavy Crude Oil?

Photo credit: Tim Carpenter/Kansas Reflector

By Sharon Franklin.

Tim Carpenter, reporter for the Kansas Reflector, recently reported a massive oil spill that is distorting a Kansas couple’s confidence in the integrity of the Keystone pipeline. The rupture of TC Energy’s 36-inch steel pipe has released 13,000 barrels of heavy crude in Washington, Kansas.

Chris and Bill Pannbacker, beef and crop producers who grew up in a farmhouse less than 1-mile from the pipeline break, found a major break in the TC Energy Keystone pipeline that poured crude oil “black-as-night” on their livestock’s grazing land and into the Mill Creek. The Federal regulators told them the accident was because of problems with design construction and operation of the pipeline. Meanwhile, TC Energy blamed a faulty weld in a bend that cracked under stress.

How Did This Happen? On December 7, there was an alarming pressure drop in the Keystone’s pipeline, and equipment showed the rupture; however, before the Keystone pipeline could be shut down as much as 500,000 gallons of crude oil were discharged. It has affected vegetation and infected the modest creek. Under the oversight of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, TC Energy reopened the pipeline in three weeks, with restoration plans to proceed.

Unfortunately for the Pannbackers, they were involuntarily drawn into this environmental nightmare, more than 6 months ago, and are still being affected by the relatively quick repairs.  During the clean-up, they have had an unobstructed view of work being done to remediate the area by a fleet of heavy equipment (excavators, bulldozers, trucks) tasked with the removal of oil-saturated soil for disposal. According to EPA, the $480 million project to remove oil and chemical pollution and to remediate the area continues.

The Pannbackers are planning to eventually move back to their family farm but are uneasy about the potential of another break in the pipeline, as Bill Pannbacker verbalized “You’re damn right! If that line blows on top of that hill, it’s going to shoot oil all over. It’s going to cover that valley.  I don’t have the confidence in the line that I did before.” Bill Pannbacker added, “I am impressed with the cleanup effort and the intensity of the cleanup effort,” However, it hasn’t quashed his apprehension and as he knows the clock is ticking toward a repeat of the pipeline catastrophe.

Homepage Water News

EPA and Partners Announce Sunoco Pipeline and Mid-Valley Pipeline Settle Oil Spill Violations with $5M Civil Penalty

In the latest joint federal-state Clean Water Act enforcement action, Sunoco Pipeline L.P. has agreed to pay civil penalties and state enforcement costs and to implement corrective measures to resolve alleged violations of the Clean Water Act and state environmental laws by Sunoco and Mid-Valley Pipeline Company stemming from three crude oil spills in 2013, 2014, and 2015, in Texas, Louisiana, and Oklahoma.
Read more.

Backyard Talk

Why The West VA Oil Spill Will Not Be The Last

A ball of fire engulfed the town of Mount Carbon West Virginia. In a freaky déjà vu moment reminiscent of the events of April of last year in Lynchburg VA, a train hauling more than 100 tankers derailed during a snowstorm on Monday in West Virginia. Just like last year, the train operator was CSX. Just like last year, a local river was contaminated. And just like last year, the train was carrying crude oil from the increasingly fracked Bakken formation in North Dakota.

These moments of déjà vu are increasingly becoming common. In a 10 month period from March 2013 to January 2014, 10 major crude oil spills occurred due to train accidents. In the last week alone, two major oil railcar incidents made headlines – one being the incident in West VA and the other a similar accident in Ontario, Canada.

Why is all this happening? Simple. Oil and gas production has increased exponentially in the past few years mainly due to the fracking boom that has taken over the country. The amount of oil being transported through rail has increased from 9,500 carloads in 2008, to over 400,000 in 2013 according to the Association of American Railroads; and 2014 figures are expected to far surpass this number. More oil equals more trains – and more trains equal more accidents.

The oil and gas industry has spent millions of dollars to convince the nation that fracking is safe and environmentally friendly. Its several potential dangers, from groundwater contamination and exhaustion to public health and social issues, are unquestionable truths that are clouded in the eyes of the public by constant streams of money from the industry. Now, the increase in railroad accidents, like the Mount Carbon spill, are a new threat to add to the long list of hazards due to fracking. And as this new danger gains more media attention, the oil and gas industry will be the reason why this oil spill will not be the last.

Backyard Talk

President Obama Holds the Power to Protect America from Keystone

In the first week of 2015, President Obama sent a clear message to the new Republican congress that he intends to stand firm in his commitment to uphold the health of environment and the American public. White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said on January 6 in a public statement that president Obama would veto any effort to move forward with the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline Act. Now, after the Keystone Act was passed in the House and is scheduled for a vote in the Senate, we hope that the President will stand firm by his promise.

This Keystone XL Pipeline Act is an effort that pushes for the completion of a pipeline that would transport oil tar sands from the Canadian province of Alberta, through Montana and South Dakota, and into Nebraska. Republican leads have been pushing for the Keystone pipeline since 2008, with a virtually identical bill failing to make it through the Senate as recently as last November. However, with the newly shaped senate in place and an already approved vote of 266-153 in the House of Representatives, the President faces a tough task in keeping the pipeline from harming the health of millions of Americans.

The concerns surrounding the Keystone pipeline are staggering. Firstly, the type of oil being mined and moved, oil sand tar, produces as much as 22% more carbon emissions than other fuels according to a Stanford University study commissioned by the EU in 2011. Secondly, the potential for a spill is highly likely, as is evidenced by the previous A tar sand spill in Mayflower AR, and could contaminate drinking water and agricultural land with toxic chemicals as the Environmental Working Group’s Poisons in the Pipeline investigation revealed.

Now that the Keystone Act is in the Senate floor and multiple amendments that would mitigate the pipeline’s destructive effects are being shot down by the Republican majority, the President’s resolution will be tested to its fullest. Although the Act has every chance of making it through the Senate, the president still hold the ultimate say. His veto power may be the only thing that stands to protect the American public from the unthinkable harms that the Keystone Pipeline would bring.