I recently posted Canada's booming oil sands industry offering a "choice between whether we starve to death or are poisoned to death". That was one of our many, many stories about how the oil industry is slowly destroying our environment (scroll) and life on this planet. We can't take much more pollution before the damage becomes irreversible. Oh wait.
Today I opened my Los Angeles Times and, once again, another pipeline leak story reared its slimy head. This time it was in North Dakota, and once again, it was a disgustingly frustrating tale of destruction and irresponsibility:
At least 20,600 barrels of oil leaked onto the [North Dakota farmer Steven] Jensens' land from a pipeline owned by Tesoro Logistics, one of the largest land-based spills in recent history. Neither the pipeline company nor the state informed the public of the spill for 11 days.
To put things into perspective, the Kalamazoo River spill in Michigan, where cleanup has gone on since 2010 (!), also gushed more than 20,000 barrels of oil.
Did I mention that a Shell pipeline broke in Texas, spilling 30,000 gallons of crude? And hey, how about that Arkansas pipeline rupture, folks?
But back to North Dakota:
No one knows how long the pipeline was leaking before Jensen discovered it, nor why sensors on the pipe failed to detect the leak. Neither the state nor the company could say what the pipeline's capacity was. Experts on pipeline spills question the accuracy of Tesoro's leak estimate, disputing its methodology.
By the way, Jensen is worried that the goo could seep into the groundwater. He smelled the oil in his wheat field before he saw it, which makes to wonder how long the pipe had been leaking. Why wasn't he alerted again?
The questions have stirred concerns about North Dakota's handling of a major spill, especially because thousands of miles of pipe are being installed as part of the state's oil boom.
And then there's that little thing called accuracy:
The company initially reported that 750 barrels had spilled, but a week later revised it to 20,600.
Let's see, gimme a second here, gotta do the math; subtracting 750 from 20,600, carrying the one, calculating.. calculating... got it! Hey, that's only a difference of 19,850 barrels. Pffft! Chickenfeed. Why, whoever would be so critical as to fault Tesoro for a measly little 20,000 barrel error?
Steve Wereley, professor of mechanical engineering at Purdue University and an expert on spill flows, who helped establish an accurate flow rate for the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil volcano in the Gulf, put it this way:
"If we're talking about tens of thousands of barrels, shouldn't you notice 20,000 barrels missing at the end?"
And there's this:
The company has cleaned up about 3,000 barrels of oil. The remediation is expected to continue until late 2014 and to cost about $4 million, the state and Tesoro said.
Again, the Kalamazoo mess is still being mopped up, and it's been three years and counting.
Meanwhile, Jensen is still fretting about what's in his water supply. Silly Steven. What's he so worried about?