OSFC Debunks Center for Biological Diversity’s Claims on Pipelines

Last week, the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) released a video and a “study” that claims to enumerate pipeline incidents since the 1980s.

Before we go any further, it’s important to explain that we’ve put “study” in quotation marks because it’s hardly a study – in fact, CBD’s press release is twice as long as the so called research it’s apparently promoting! Second, Politico also reported that CBD hopes the video will “go viral” – by viral we can only assume they mean to infect the public with false information.  Let’s have a look:

CBD claim #1: “If the Keystone XL pipeline is built, the State Department said it could spill more than 100 times.”

FACT: Well, that would be news to the researchers at State who concluded, after almost five years of review, that “Keystone XL would have a degree of safety over any other” as it will go above and beyond the requirements of any current pipeline, adopting 57 extra safety measures.  What’s more, the National Academy of Sciences recently confirmed that that diluted bitumen (one type of oil that will be transported by the Keystone XL pipeline) is not more likely to spill from a pipeline, which is the same conclusion that the State Department came to in its 2013 assessment:

“[B]ased on averages of approximately 5 years, the acids [in diluted bitumen] are too stable to be corrosive under transmission pipeline temperatures … Dilbit viscosity is comparable to those of conventional heavy crude oils and there is no evidence of increased corrosion or other potential pipeline threat due to viscosity.”

State went on to point out that Keystone XL is not likely to pose a threat to the Great Plains Aquifer: “Overall, it is very unlikely that the proposed pipeline area would affect water quality in the [Great Plains Aquifer] … “[T]here is an extremely low probability that a petroleum release from the proposed Project would affect water quality in [the Western Interior Plains Aquifer].”

CBD Claim #2: There is “a deeply troubling history of pipeline accidents in the United States”

FACT: No there isn’t.  While no form of energy transportation is 100 percent incident free, pipelines in the United States have a very strong record of safety. As the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) has said, pipelines are the most efficient and safest means of moving petroleum products overland for long disnaces:

Pipelines are one of the safest and most cost-effective means to transport the extraordinary volumes of natural gas and hazardous liquid products that fuel our economy. To move the volume of even a modest pipeline, it would take a constant line of tanker trucks, about 750 per day, loading up and moving out every two minutes, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The railroad-equivalent of this single pipeline would be a train of seventy-five 2,000-barrel tank rail cars every day.

We currently have 180,000 miles of pipelines moving crude oil to refineries and petroleum products to consumer markets.  Over the past 20 years, 99.9992 percent of about 13.5 billion barrels of petroleum liquids is transported by pipeline safely.  Since 1999, operators have reduced spills from all causes for liquid petroleum pipelines by nearly 60 percent (for more on that click here) – but of course, the goal of every oil and gas company in America is to have no incidents: zero spills.

The same is true for fatalities: not one serious injury or death is acceptable to anyone in the oil and gas industry.  Yes, risks are present in every industry in America, and the oil and gas industry is no different, but unfortunately, when discussing incidents that have occurred, CBD has decided to inflate the numbers very much out of context: CBD states that there have been 512 deaths from pipeline spills since 1986, but when you actually look at the data from PHMSA, the number of from hazardous liquid transmission is 39 since 1993.

CBD Claim #3: Oil sands is “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 three years of effort.”

FACT: Not only was this spill in the Kalamazoo River cleaned, the company responsible, Enbridge, vowed to make the river better than it was – and they did.  As one resident, Jesse Jacox, who lives along the Kalamazoo River put it, “I’m very pleased. I mean it’s cleaner now than it was before.”

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