Spectra ”safety is our first concern” Energy Corp. experienced a pipeline rupture in St. John, British Columbia just five days after a previous incident, according to the Washington Post. The June 28th rupture followed a June 23rd leak and flash fire at a nearby Spectra compressor station, which injured two workers. British Columbia has not had a very pleasant history with Spectra. According to Spectra Energy Watch, their Pine River natural gas processing plant was the number one polluter in 2009, and Spectra also took the number three position with the company’s Fort Nelson plant, releasing a reported 1 million tonnes of annual greenhouse gas emissions.
But is Spectra really any worse than any other pipeline builder? After all, Williams Transco, which seeks to build an equally large, high-pressure gas pipeline in the Rockaways and south Brooklyn, experienced both a leak and a compressor station explosion within one month’s time just this past April. While Spectra ranks number 7 on the EPA’s list of top penalties assessed, and was responsible for the major Steckman Ridge blowout, Williams has been under a federal corrective order for 44 of the past 45 months, according to documents sourced by Natural Gas Watch. Quite the pair.
The truth is that America’s 2.5 million miles of pipelines are dangerous, inadequately regulated and maintained. As the New York Times reports, “the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) is chronically short of inspectors and lacks the resources needed to hire more, leaving too much of the regulatory control in the hands of pipeline operators themselves.” Remapping Debate notes that just 7 percent of natural gas lines are subject to mandatory inspection under the 2002 safety rules (before 2002, pipelines were not subject to any mandatory safety inspections) and the approximately 88 auditors nationwide review industry-supplied reports and conduct some field inspections (roughly one per month per inspector based on the average annual total). No wonder the federal panel which investigated the San Bruno explosion deemed the accident “a failure of the entire system,” noting that the pipeline operator “exploited the lack of monitoring by regulators, who mistakenly placed ‘blind trust’ in the utility.”
When it comes to Spectra and Williams, we have to admit, trust is not something that comes to mind.