Thursday, February 9, 2017

Pipelines Under Rivers

Writer Greg Seitz is the resident writer for the St. Croix Watershed Research Station, part of the Science Museum of Minnesota, and editor of St. Croix 360, community news and river stewardship for the St. Croix River region. For readers not from these parts, the St. Croix is a tributary of the Mississippi, forming much of the border between Minnesota and Wisconsin.

Seitz today tweeted this series of thoughts on oil pipelines:

Oil pipelines under rivers is a topic I've been researching and writing about since late 2014. I constantly hear how it can be done safely.

Yes, I think pipelines under rivers could be semi-safe. Could be. That safety depends on rules and oversight. Pipelines have almost none.

There are 2.5 million miles of pipelines in America. A small federal agency – part of the Department of Transportation – oversees much of it.

There are 90 inspectors in the agency assigned to making sure companies follow the rules about pipeline safety. 90!

So, because it's not realistic to enforce stringent regulations, there are not stringent regulations.

Pipeline companies mostly get in trouble when there's a spill due to negligence. But negligence must be proven. That's what lawyers are for.

Rivers pose a particular threat to oil pipelines: the power of raging water. In a flood, they can dig deep into their beds – scour holes.

If they expose the pipe, then there is torsion on it. Logs, boulders, ice, or other debris getting pushed down the river strike it.

So pipelines should be buried deeply, right? And we better make sure they stay buried over the years, right? Nope.

Pipeline builders should study any river's potential to flood and scour, and bury their pipe deeper, but they don't have to.

There is no requirement that they make sure their pipes stay buried sufficiently deep under rivers as the years pass.

Scour was key in both the big pipeline spills into the Yellowstone River in the last seven years. One of which was complicated by ice cover.

So: I stand with Standing Rock. Forcing a pipeline under a river, low safety standards are an affront to humans and the water we share. #NoDAPL

Something to know as we watch the Turmp administration force its will upon the native people in North Dakota.

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