What is being transported and why?
Pipelines have been proposed and built across the United States including New Mexico, Texas, and Louisiana where they are transporting methane gas and crude oil to export and petrochemical facilities. These pipelines take the methane gas and oil extracted from the shale plays and transport it hundreds of miles across vulnerable aquifers, destroying sacred sites of Indigenous peoples, damaging wildlife, and putting homes, schools, and communities at risk from explosions and spills when these projects inevitably fail.
In addition to the large transmission pipelines, there are also gathering lines carrying raw oil and gas from the wellheads to collection and processing sites. These lines are smaller in diameter and lower pressure and often regulated lightly or, in rural areas, not at all. Some high-pressure gas pipelines also legally qualify as gathering lines and therefore, despite their size, are exempt from regulations. Over one-third of all gathering lines in the United States are located in Texas. Despite explosions resulting in death, in 2019 the Texas Railroad Commission rejected a proposal to subject the rural gathering lines to regulation and set safety protocols.
While elected officials and fossil fuels corporations often claim pipelines are a safe method of transportation communities along pipeline routes in the PGC coalition know that’s a lie.
A CityLab investigation of data from the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration in 2016 concluded: “wherever pipelines are extended, deadly accidents will follow”. Pipeline incidents from 1986-2016 have resulted in 548 deaths, 2,576 injuries, and over $8.5 million in financial damages. These incidents are particularly common in Texas and Louisiana due to the high concentration of fossil fuel infrastructure. The number of miles of U.S. pipelines tripled from 2006 to 2016, and newer pipelines are less safe than older ones. Pipelines built after 2010 suffer higher failure rates than pipelines built at any other time.
New pipelines are the largest single contributor to wetland damage in the Gulf, causing the loss of thousands of acres of wetland forest every year. Additionally, new pipelines are not any safer than repurposing existing lines. While many projects in the Permian Gulf Coast advertise their use of existing infrastructure rather than building new lines such as Texas Gulflink neither is safe or risk-free. Analysis of federal data in 2015 found that the failure rate of new pipelines is on par with that of gas transmission lines installed before the 1940s. Additionally, pipelines carrying methane gas are over five times more disaster prone than those carrying other products.
[LINK FRACTRACKER MAP — https://maps.fractracker.org/latest/?appid=bd367e14ba064a15a58013b8e99ddf1e]
From permitting to use pipelines are a nightmare for residents and communities. Due to state law in Texas, eminent domain and common carrier designation make it easy for companies to build and difficult for residents to defend themselves. During construction spills of drilling fluid can permanently damage groundwater sources and once in use pipelines pose a risk of explosion and spills. Pipelines are also a manifestation of ongoing colonization and the genocide of Indigenous peoples as they are built without the consent of the original caretakers of the land and through sacred sites without consultation.
Pipelines are also a risk to workers. The first independent investigation of pipeline construction workers in 2018 found that those workers die on the job 3.6 times more often than the average worker in the US. Pipeline worker deaths occur from fires, crushing, and heat exhaustion.
Communities across Louisiana, Texas, and New Mexico have come together to fight pipelines often risking their safety as draconian critical infrastructure and protesting bills are passed by state legislatures. These laws are designed to suppress community voices and those who do speak protest are at risk for felony charges and prison time.