Friday, February 14, 2014

If you like the sinkhole and explosion in Kentucky this week, you'll love the catastrophic Bluegrass Pipeline

Every news outlet in Central Kentucky was chasing this story yesterday, because the consequences pipeline opponents have been warning about for almost a year suddenly came to life in front of all our eyes.

And the company pushing to build the toxic fracking waste Bluegrass Pipeline is refusing to comment. When they won't even bother to deny the facts, you know it's bad.

Erica Peterson at WFPL:

A natural gas pipeline explosion in southern Kentucky this morning, paired with a spontaneous sinkhole at Bowling Green’s Corvette Museum yesterday, is providing fodder for the opposition to a proposed natural gas liquids pipeline.


Pekny’s chief concerns about the Bluegrass Pipeline are the risk of explosion and the potential for widespread water contamination—and both concerns are illustrated by this week’s events in Bowling Green and Adair County.

First, it’s important to point out that the pipeline explosion earlier today was a natural gas transmission line: a 30 inch diameter pipe that carries natural gas across Kentucky. The proposed Bluegrass Pipeline—as well as conversion project by Mark West and Kinder Morgan of the Tennessee Gas Pipeline—would carry natural gas liquids. These are different products and are regulated under different federal laws, but both are flammable materials.

But safety is a concern. So, are concerns about and comparisons between these two pipelines valid?

A spokesman for Bluegrass Pipeline company Williams didn’t return a request for comment, but the Bluegrass Pipeline website tells concerned citizens that the pipeline will be periodically inspected “including leak surveys and valve and safety device inspections.” The company will also constantly monitor the pipeline remotely. Those are the same safety measures Columbia Gulf Transmission (the company whose pipeline exploded in Adair County yesterday) touts on its website.


But if a leak happened in the Bluegrass Pipeline, it would likely behave differently than last night’s natural gas explosion.

Natural gas is lighter than air. So during a rupture and explosion like that in Adair County, the gas (and subsequent fire) rises. When natural gas liquids leak, some remain liquids, and some are vaporized. Those that become gas are heavier than air, which means they hug the ground. And they can detonate on their own, which means a potential leak and explosion could be even more catastrophic.

Now, the sinkhole. The Bluegrass Pipeline will cross about 120 miles of karst terrain in Kentucky, where the underlying limestone makes caves and sinkholes common. Karst hydrogeologist (and former professor) Ralph Ewers says the prevalence of sinkholes in the areas is problematic for pipeline integrity.
“Crossing such areas subjects the pipeline to great stress,” he says. “Unusual stress. And stress, of course, leads to corrosion and to leaks.”


“What concerns me most is not the catastrophic rupture, though those are quite spectacular and they do cause considerable problems, it’s the more subtle ones I’m concerned about,” he says. “And a small leak would have consequences at distances of a mile away, ten miles away, before you understood that there was a leak at all.”
 The Bluegrass Pipeline and others like it - and there will be others, trust me, regardless of whether Williams Co. pulls off this first attempt - are a clear, present and imminent danger to the human safety, the water supply, the agriculture, the economy and the very future of the entire Bluegrass Region.

As others are now saying about the multiple corporate poisonings of water supplies in West Virginia and North Carolina since the first of the year, if the perpetrators were terrorists, the sources would be shut down and every resource mobilized to capture and prosecute the criminals responsible.

 But because the criminals are corporate executives, they walk.

And their victims - us - are left to suffer and die.

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