Report Paints Unrealistic Picture of Energy Infrastructure

Recently, environmental groups Greenpeace USA and Waterkeeper Alliance released a report on pipeline infrastructure projects operated by Energy Transfer Partners and Sunoco. The study draws the conclusion that “[t]here is no failsafe way to transport fossil fuels and pipeline spills remain a direct and seemingly unavoidable consequence of oil and gas activity.”

Simply put, no method of transporting energy resources will ever be 100% risk-free. Underground pipelines, however, remain the safest means of doing so – far safer than rail, truck, or barge. Additionally, underground pipelines are capable of delivering volumes of oil and natural gas that are exponentially higher than any other method of transportation.

Energy Transfer’s track record underscores that fact. As ETP spokeswoman Vicki Granado recently related:

In 2016, the Energy Transfer family of companies transported 1,424,694,595 Barrels (a 23% increase over 2015) of onshore crude, onshore (highly volatile liquids,) and onshore refined and/or petroleum products through approximately 79,700 miles of pipeline of which 99.99% was delivered safely to its intended destination (versus 99.96% in 2015).

This admirable record of safety belies the accusations of environmental groups that seek the highly impractical goal of halting the transportation and use of fossil fuel resources. It’s important to note that federal regulatory standards are more stringent than ever, with PHMSA guidelines  calling for reporting of releases of as little as 5 gallons of hazardous material.

The Greenpeace report goes on to argue that a “[r]apid transition to renewable energy could dramatically reduce spills from pipelines and pollution of drinking water sources.” As noble a goal as this may be, it is not rooted in market realities. We do not live a world where we can thrive without access to petroleum products, and so we must invest in the safest means of transportation – such as modern pipelines like the Bayou Bridge Pipeline.

And the report’s authors target the Bayou Bridge Pipeline here in Louisiana, claiming:

Assuming the U.S. system-wide rate for significant crude oil spills of 0.001 per year per mile, we estimate that [. . .] the Bayou Bridge Pipeline would suffer eight significant spills, during a 50-year nominal lifetime.

In fact, the Bayou Bridge Pipeline will be one of the most technologically advanced projects ever constructed, with state-of-the-art monitoring in place to make sure the pipeline operates safely and without incident every day. As Louisianians for Energy has previously noted, the project will also result in a number of benefits for communities across the state – including construction jobs for hardworking tradesmen and women.

Organizations like Greenpeace USA and Waterkeeper Alliance would be better served to work toward commonsense, attainable goals – rather than across-the-board opposition to fossil fuels and their safe transportation by pipeline infrastructure.