With Senate Poised to Vote on Keystone XL, New Analysis Reveals Dangerous Toll of U.S. Pipelines

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Bill Snape, (202) 536-9351

With Senate Poised to Vote on Keystone XL, New Analysis Reveals Dangerous Toll of U.S. Pipelines

WASHINGTON - With the U.S. Senate poised to vote on the Keystone XL pipeline on Tuesday, a new analysis of federal records reveals the dangerous toll of pipelines in the United States. In just the past year and four months, there have been 372 oil and gas pipeline leaks, spills and other incidents, leading to 20 deaths, 117 injuries and more than $256 million in damages.

America's Dangerous Pipelines

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The new data adds to a June 1, 2013 independent analysis of federal records revealing that since 1986, oil and gas pipeline incidents have resulted in 532 deaths, more than 2,400 injuries and more than $7.5 billion in damages.

A new time-lapse video includes every “significant pipeline” incident in the continental United States — along with their human and financial costs — from 1986 to Oct. 1, 2014. On average one significant pipeline incident occurs in the country every 30 hours, according to the data.

“There’s no way to get around the fact that oil and gas pipelines are dangerous and have exacted a devastating toll on people and wildlife. It’s appalling to see Congress seriously considering giving the green light to Keystone XL,” said Bill Snape, senior counsel with the Center for Biological Diversity. “The Obama administration’s own analysis says Keystone XL will spill oil, so it’s really troubling to see politicians wanting to add to this dangerous legacy of failed pipelines.”

The analysis comes as the State Department considers the Keystone XL pipeline — which would transport up to 35 million gallons of tar sands oil a day from Canada to Texas — that federal officials have already estimated could spill up to 100 times during its lifetime.

The analysis released today examines pipeline incidents since 1986, including spills, leaks, ruptures and explosions. It’s based on records from the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, which maintains a database of all U.S. pipeline incidents that are classified as “significant,” those resulting in death or injury, damages more than $50,000, more than 5 barrels of highly volatile substances or 50 barrels of other liquid released, or where the liquid exploded or burned. In total there have been more than 8,700 significant incidents with U.S. pipelines, involving death, injury, and economic and environmental damage, since 1986 — more than 300 per year.

“This analysis ought to be a wakeup call to anyone who thinks it’s smart to double-down on these dangerous pipelines,” said Snape. “Voting for Keystone XL is voting for more spills, more environmental devastation and more climate chaos. It’s as simple as that.”

One difference between Keystone XL and the vast majority of other pipelines that have spilled is that it will be carrying tar sands oil, which has proven very difficult, if not impossible, to clean up. A 2010 spill of tar sands oil in the Kalamazoo River in Michigan, for example, has yet to be cleaned up despite four years of effort. Another tar sands spill in 2013 fouled an entire neighborhood in Arkansas. Federal regulators have acknowledged that Keystone XL, too, will spill.

TransCanada’s existing Keystone I tar sands pipeline has reportedly leaked at least 14 times since it went into operation in June 2010, including one spill of 24,000 gallons. The State Department’s environmental reviews have pointed out that spills from Keystone XL are likely to occur, estimating that there could be as many as about 100 spills over the course of the pipeline’s lifespan. The pipeline will cross 1,700 miles and cross a number of important rivers, including the Yellowstone and Platte, as well as thousands of smaller rivers and streams.

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At the Center for Biological Diversity, we believe that the welfare of human beings is deeply linked to nature - to the existence in our world of a vast diversity of wild animals and plants. Because diversity has intrinsic value, and because its loss impoverishes society, we work to secure a future for all species, great and small, hovering on the brink of extinction. We do so through science, law, and creative media, with a focus on protecting the lands, waters, and climate that species need to survive.

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