How Not To Be Awakened

TransCanada Building, Calgary. Photo by Qyd (talk · contribs) (Own work (Own photo)) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC-BY-2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5)], via Wikimedia Commons

TransCanada Building, Calgary. Photo by Qyd (talk · contribs) (Own work (Own photo)) CC-BY-SA-3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

In case you’ve never noticed (or if you’re new here), we write a lot about pipelines. Like any other addict who knows that his or her habit is bad for their health, but continues with it anyways, we as a society are dependent on our fossil fuels. As with any other addiction, there’s an infrastructure in place for getting the product (in this case, oil and/or gas) into the hands of the addict. And, just as in the drug trade, there’s often what the military calls “collateral damage” among the residents of the area where such infrastructure is operating.

On Tuesday, we saw a prime example of this in Benton Township, Michigan. Sometime around 2 AM, a natural gas line operated by TransCanada (yes, the same company whose oil is the prime mover of the Keystone XL proposal) started leaking. This in turn led to an evacuation of residents within a one mile area of the leak  – such a wonderful thing to wake up to, no?

Vic Rogers, who lives on the property where the leak occurred, described what happened; “If you ever hear lightning strike and hear the big boom afterwards that’s what it sounded like. After that it was like a train or a jet engine roar. Everything started to shake and vibrate I looked out the window and I could see this plume of black debris.”

15 hours later, the approximately 500 people who had evacuated were allowed to return home. Yesterday, TransCanada went into full damage control mode. TransCanada spokesperson Gretchen Krueger said; “Our focus right now is on the community and on people, Yesterday was responding to the event and today is responding to the community and we want to be here for them to answer those questions.” It seems to us as if we’ve heard this exact same script recited by the gas and oil companies before – I wonder if TransCanada has the walrus listed in their response plan too. But, I digress…

Pipelines leak. It’s not a matter of if; it’s a matter of when and how much. TransCanada doesn’t have a stellar record as far as safety goes, either. In late 2012, the Canadian national energy-industry regulator (NEB) announced that it was performing a major audit of TransCanada’s Canadian operations after confirming a whistleblower’s story documenting repeated violations of pipeline safety regulations.

Last summer in testimony before a Canadian Senate committee, Evan Vokes, a pipeline safety whistleblower and materials engineer, said that TransCanada “has a culture of non-compliance,” which he blamed on a “mix of politics and commercial interests that has resulted in false public claims of exceptional industry practice when the reality is that industry struggles to comply with code and regulation.” In other words, business as usual.

Accidents like this are a prime example of why Keystone XL is a bad idea. We can’t trust TransCanada to be proactive as far as the environment goes, and their safety record is lackadaisical, to put it mildly. The pipeline has no upside for America whatsoever; we’d be carrying Canadian tar sands oil down to the Gulf refineries to be processed and exported on the global market. The reduced refinery capacity brought about by the tar sand oil having priority could lead to higher gas prices here ion the US. And, the profit goes back to Canada, while we assume all the risk.

Does that sound like a good deal to you? We thought not…

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