Monday, February 17, 2014

Pipelines in Kentucky Karst and Lax Regulatory Oversite: A Recipe for Disaster

Recently, Kentucky witnessed two striking examples of how the state's karst geology and woefully inadequate regulation of pipelines can lead to disaster--without warning.  Although the sinkhole swallowing classic Corvettes gained national media attention, little was said about the other three sinkholes that reportedly appeared in Bowling Green that same day.  

Most certainly, that fact that no one was killed in the Adair County pipeline explosion is a miracle for which we are all thankful.  We can only hope that the families who lost their homes will be compensated for their losses and that the injured receive coverage of their medical care from the company. 

These two tragedies illustrate the very real dangers surrounding the Bluegrass hazardous liquids pipeline.  It is estimated that the pipeline in Adair County was 50-60 years old and is quite likely of the same vintage of similar pipelines that Williams, Boardwalk, and Kinder Morgan want to convert to carry fracked NGLs to the gulf.  

Not only were the existing lines not engineered for high pressure NGLs, it is no secret that the country's aging gas pipeline infrastructure already leaks.  The Homeland Security News Wire reports that a recent study of lines in Washington, D.C. found "more than 5,893 leaks from aging natural gas pipelines. A dozen of the leaks could have posed explosion risks, the researchers said. Some manholes had methane concentrations as high as 500,000 parts per million of natural gas — about ten times greater than the threshold at which explosions can occur."

Perhaps nothing drives home the grim reality of what pipeline disasters can do than the real life stories of people who have lived through them.  We are thankful and feel privileged to share with you the story of Kentuckian Cherie Collins, who, at the tender age of ten, was severely burned in a gas line explosion while riding in a car with her family down a rural county road.  Graphic Notice:  This powerful video contains images of young Cherie's burn injuries and her account of a lifetime struggle with post-traumatic stress disorder.