Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

A close-up of a leaking pipeline, stuffed with a tree to stem the oil flow. (Photo: newmy51/cc/flickr)

More Than 300 A Year: New Analysis Shows Devastating Impact of Pipeline Spills

'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,' attorney says

Deirdre Fulton

Released one day before the U.S. Senate votes on the Keystone XL pipeline, a new analysis of federal records shows that 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.

The Center for Biological Diversity analysis is based on decades of 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, the Center reports—more than 300 per year.

"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 time-lapse video below 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.


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

To 'Step Back From the Edge of Recession,' UN Urges Central Banks to Stop Rate Hikes

The UNCTAD chief warns that "the current course of action is hurting the most vulnerable, especially in developing countries, and risks tipping the world into a global recession."

Jessica Corbett ·


'Their Greed Knows No Bounds': Analysis Shows Ongoing Price Gouging by Oil Giants

"Big Oil is boasting record profits and dragging their feet to pass any lower costs onto consumers in order to keep padding investors' pockets," said Accountable.US.

Brett Wilkins ·


'Doing This for My Son': UK Climate Activist Gives Interview While Handcuffed, Hauled Off by Cops

"The government's inaction on climate change is a death sentence to us all," the Just Stop Oil protester said.

Brett Wilkins ·


'Dr. Oz Is a Puppy Killer': Fetterman Campaign Responds to Reporting on Animal Testing

"This is who Dr. Oz is: unconscionable and a danger to others," said Fetterman's wife, activist Gisele Barreto Fetterman.

Julia Conley ·


'We Must Not Stand By': Amnesty Urges State Leaders to Ban Guns Near Polling Places

"Governors and secretaries of state must do everything in their power to ensure the safety of voters and poll workers this November."

Brett Wilkins ·

Common Dreams Logo