Posted by: Green Knight | December 12, 2012

Pipeline Safety

Yesterday there was a natural gas pipeline explosion in West Virginia (where nothing ever happens). The heat actually MELTED guardrails and asphalt on the highway, and burned at least 4 homes.

Nobody got killed, or even hurt, which was really lucky. But as the article shows, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) could be doing a better job, and a new law is being implemented to make that happen. What gets me is that a company spokesperson actually had the nerve to refer to “continued safe operation.” Where do they find these people?

Several years ago I was doing some consulting work for a company that did various types of cleanup. One of their projects was going out once or twice a week to bag up floating booms on a creek by the airport that were there to soak up leaking jet fuel, and string up new ones. I worked on that one day myself, in leaky hip waders and no safety harness. Totally unsafe working conditions, and I’m a safety instructor. Nobody had ever bothered to research where the leak was coming from, and the airport has tons of aboveground and underground storage tanks, but there’s a pipeline right next to that creek. Occam’s razor suggested that it was probably the likeliest source. I found out by asking annoying questions in the manner of my hero Socrates that this had been going on for at least EIGHT YEARS. Lucrative contract, I guess, and Ghod knows how much the taxpayers were paying for it.

Me being the gadfly that I am, I made several calls to the airport authority and to the state environmental agency I used to work for, and bugged them until they finally DID track down the source, which WAS that pipeline, and the pipeline company had to fix the leak. The airport and my old employers weren’t happy about having to get off their lazy hindquarters, and no doubt my client wasn’t happy about losing that steady income. Well, they didn’t have any parades in my honor, but I got a longtime ongoing environmental insult STOPPED, and I saved the citizens a SHITLOAD of money (i usually don’t swear on here but had to this time).

As I like to say, “SOMEBODY has to do it; might as well be ME.”


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