The threats pipelines pose are numerous and extremely serious. Pipeline incidents have res ulted in over 500 deaths, nearly 3,000 injuries, and over $8.5 billion in financial costs from 1986 to 2016. Just this month, about 5,000 barrels of oil, or about 210,000 gallons, gushed out of the Keystone Pipeline in South Dakota.
Pipelines are accidently hit or dug up at a shocking rate. In 2016, contractors accidently hit a gasoline pipeline, causing two wildfires that burned 31 acres, killed one person, and injured five.
In 2015, prisoners were building an access road for the police department in California.
A prisoner operating a backhoe hit a natural gas pipeline, causing an explosion, injuring 14 people, 2 of them critically because no one followed regulations to “call before you dig”, what we call “Miss Utility” here in Virginia. Regulations are unenforced and are loosely followed by the industry if regarded at all. Regulatory agencies have had their funding cut so they have fewer staff to do the important work of keeping our massive pipeline infrastructure safe.
In Colorado in 2015, there were over 1,300 incidents of pipes being punctured by people doing excavation or construction projects, such as installing back yard fences. These punctures caused leaks, explosions, and the contamination of water, land, and air; yet there were no violations or penalties served to anyone in any of these incidents.
Pipelines have been a target of cyber attacks. Cyber attackers could take control over the system that runs our electrical grid, purposely stopping service to businesses and homes, bringing our economy and way of life to a screeching halt. In 2013, 23 pipeline companies had hackers steal some of their sensitive information. Earlier this year, the Department of Energy released a report detailing their concern over cyber-attacks on our pipeline infrastructure. A direct quote from that report is, "In the current environment, the U.S. grid faces imminent danger from cyber attacks, absent a discrete set of actions and clear authorities to inform both responses and threats." A cyber-attack would cripple our country, economy and daily lives.
The threat of terrorism to our massive pipeline infrastructure is a serious problem. There are few regulations and oversight protecting pipelines that carry highly explosive materials. Threats could come from domestic or foreign terrorists wanting to harm people or property along the pipeline routes. Current pipelines, many of which serve our homes and area businesses, are 10-20 inches. The Atlantic Coast pipeline is 42 inches, which makes it a bigger and deadlier threat.
Pipelines can be affected by natural disasters, such as lightning, earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, mudslides, and drought. In a drought we are all asked to decrease the amount of water we use in our personal lives to collectively sacrifice for the greater good. If state water permits are approved, Dominion will pull millions of gallons of water out of our local streams during construction and during the testing of the pipeline. This would dramatically affect our water table and water available to us for us to use in our homes, gardens, farms, and lives. I researched droughts and pipelines, keeping in mind that we are in karst geology here in Augusta County. Karst is a system of underground water channels, caves and sinkholes. Droughts cause the ground to move and shift, and then when rain comes, the ground can swell and collapse, triggering flash flooding and mudslides. Droughts make pipelines in karst and steep terrain even more dangerous.
The Atlantic Coast pipeline, as well as the Mountain Valley pipelie, is not needed to keep our lights on. We know we are not getting the gas; we are not getting the jobs or any of the so-called benefits of a natural gas pipeline. We are getting only the negatives.
People standing united against government corruption, the abuse of eminent domain and the overreaching power a private for-profit corporation is the only way we will stop the pipeline. We the people can only count on each other to stand up and do the right thing, and right now our neighbors need you to stand with them as they face this massive threat to their land, homes, and lives.
Affected landowners need everyone to help them stand up to the powerful Dominion and all of their friends in Richmond and DC that give them unyielding power and strength, all of them financially benefiting from their mutually beneficial relationship. What side are you on?
Jennifer Lewis writes is vice chair of the Waynesboro Democratic Committee. She lives in Waynesboro.