How Much Spilled Oil Will It Take to Kill the Keystone XL Pipeline?

Since 1986, pipeline accidents in the U.S. have spilled an average of 76,000 barrels per year, causing the deaths of 500 Americans.
Aug 7, 2013· 1 MIN READ
Salvatore Cardoni holds a political science degree from the George Washington University. He's written about all things environment since 2007.

In June, landowners in several east Texas towns began uploading photos to the web depicting “anomalies”—dents and welded joints—in need of urgent repair on the southern leg of the much-maligned Keystone XL pipeline.

(In case you’re confused: The Keystone XL pipeline currently waiting President Obama’s approval is actually the northern leg of a larger, unfinished pipeline. If linked to the already-built southern arm, the unified pipe would transport up to 35 million gallons of tar-sands per day from Canada to refineries in Texas.)

Though quickly repaired by TransCanada contractors, these imperfections in the pipeline did nothing to alleviate the very real concerns of jittery locals worried about tainted groundwater. And a new time-lapse video, which catalogues every “significant” oil pipeline spill in the United States since 1986, is likely only to metastasize their fears.

According to The Center for Biological Diversity, which produced the video, a pipeline with a U.S. address has ruptured roughly 8,000 times in the last 27 years, resulting in more than 500 deaths (red dots on the video) and more than 2,300 injuries (yellow dots on the video).

Since 1986, pipeline accidents have spilled an average of 76,000 barrels per year, or more than three million gallons. This is equivalent to 200 barrels every day. On average one significant pipeline incident occurs in the country every 30 hours.

And now for the bad news:

Only incidents classified as "significant" by the agency are shown in the video. "Significant" incidents include those in which someone was hospitalized or killed, damages amounted to more than $50,000, more than 5 barrels of highly volatile substances or 50 barrels of other liquid were released, or where the liquid exploded or burned.

And now for the really bad news.

Pipelines are considered to be three to six times safer than rail or barge in terms of fuel transport!

I guess the lesson of the day is that the only safe thing to do with these dirty fossil fuels is to leave them where they can’t hurt anyone—in the ground.