November 16, 2019

Pipelines should focus more on prevention - Daily Leader Extra : Editorials

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Pipelines should focus more on prevention

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Posted: Monday, November 4, 2019 4:22 pm

We've heard this story before.

During the endless battle over oil pipelines, a spill occurs on an existing line. Opponents say it's an example that pipelines inevitably leak and that no more of them should be built. Supporters of pipelines say the leak was a good example that they can be found quickly, the flow stopped and spilled oil cleaned up quickly.

The Keystone pipeline in North Dakota leaked an approximate 383,000 gallons in the northeastern part of the state last week, affecting a wetland. The cause of the leak is under investigation. Coincidentally, the leak occurred during hearings of the South Dakota Water Management board. Pipeline opponents emphasized the risk of leaks, especially near any water, such as rivers, lakes or aquifers.

The Keystone pipeline leaked in 2017 in Marshall County, S.D. That spill was reported as 210,000 gallons of oil spilled but revised in April 2018 as 407,000 gallons.

Both opponents and supporters make good points, but at the moment, we're wondering about the leak detection technology. In both cases, about 400,000 gallons of oil leaked before it was stopped. It's possible the initial estimate of 383,000 gallons last week will be revised.

We believe the focus should be on more preventive measures or detection. Shouldn't financial resources be directed more to preventing leaks, or even detecting weaknesses that could cause a break? At the worst, technology should be implemented that would shut the flow much faster than after 400,000 gallons.

We believe the technology is available, and frankly, we think the money is available for it, also. Oil pipelines are big money, and there should be no reason to spend money on building and maintaining them to state-of-the-art standards. A better track record of prevention and earlier detection would go a long ways.

-- Jon M. Hunter