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Natural Gas Pipelines: Problems From Beginning to End

Natural Gas Pipelines: Problems From Beginning to End

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The oil and gas industry plans to massively expand a labyrinth of pipelines to market natural gas extracted from the Marcellus Shale and other rock formations using hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. But allowing the industry to build out its sprawling pipeline infrastructure and to lock-in decades more of U.S. dependence on natural gas would be a colossal mistake. The industry’s pipeline projects must be stopped.

The oil and gas industry plans to massively expand a labyrinth of pipelines to market natural gas extracted from the Marcellus Shale and other rock formations using hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. But allowing the industry to build out its sprawling pipeline infrastructure and to lock-in decades more of U.S. dependence on natural gas would be a colossal mistake. The industry’s pipeline projects must be stopped.

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Published by: Food and Water Watch on Jan 23, 2013
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02/22/2014

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Increased dependence on fracking
Drilling and racking shale o produce naural gas, orshale gas, resul in local air polluion problems,
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degradewaer qualiy in rivers and sreams
3
and creae shor- andlong-erm risks o underground sources o drinking wa-er.
4
In par because o such environmenal impacs, com-muniies wih shale gas developmen can be made worseof as he boom-and-bus cycle o exracion runs iscourse.
5
More pipelines simply mean more environmenaland public healh problems or hese local communiies.As or addressing he dire hrea o global climaechange, shiing o a greaer U.S. energy dependence onnaural gas is no a soluion, and may even exacerbaehe hreas in he near uure.
6
Mehane, a poen green-house gas,
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is emited as naural gas is produced andranspored,
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and carbon dioxide is emited as nauralgas is burned.
9
To avoid caasrophic climae change, in-vesmens in ossil uel inrasrucure mus end.
10
Ye despie all he problems wih shale gas, he U.S. Fed-eral Energy Regulaory Commission (FERC), he govern-men body charged wih approving or rejecing consruc-ion o inersae naural gas pipelines or upgrades o exising pipeline inrasrucure, ails o ully accoun orhow individual pipeline projecs, aken ogeher, nega-ively impac public healh and he environmen.
11
Longpipelines are segmened ino individual projecs hahave cumulaive negaive impacs.In ac, according o FERC’s mos recen clariicaion o oficial policy, when “considering he poenial adverseenvironmenal impac o a projec, he Commission willconinue o ake ino accoun as a acor or is consid-eraion he
overall benefits 
o he environmen o nauralgas consumpion” [emphasis added].
12
Thus, “overallbeneis” are presumed rom he beginning. FERC’snarrow scope o review, based on oudaed science oweigh he risks, coss and beneis o modern drillingand racking, does he public a disservice. I serves heoil and gas indusry, which sands o proi immenselyrom locking-in anoher several decades o U.S. depen-dence on naural gas.
Pipeline companies are empoweredto condemn your property
The indusry’s advanages only begin wih FERC’s nar-row review o impacs rom pipelines. Under a ederallaw known as he Naural Gas Ac, when FERC awards apipeline company a Ceriicae o Public Convenience and
Natural Gas Pipelines:Problems From Beginning to End
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T
he oil and gas indusry plans o massively expand a labyrinh o pipelines o markenaural gas exraced rom he Marcellus Shale and oher rock ormaions usinghydraulic racuring, or racking.
1
Bu allowing he indusry o build ou is sprawlingpipeline inrasrucure and o lock-in decades more o U.S. dependence on naural gaswould be a colossal misake. The indusry’s pipeline projecs mus be sopped.
 
2
Necessiy, he company is graned he righ o exerciseeminen domain so i can condemn privae propery orconsrucing and mainaining he pipeline.
13
As a resul,landowners are le wih no recourse i FERC concludes,based on is narrow review, ha “he public beneis romhe projec ouweigh any adverse efecs” and hen ceri-ies a pipeline projec hrough heir propery.
14
 In a policy journal published by he Cao Insiue, aliberarian hink ank, he auhor o one aricle explainsha, in he conex o naural resource developmen,“eminen domain is oen a ool used by privae indus-ry o promoe privae ineress a he expense o oherprivae paries wih no sae or local governmen involve-men in he eminen domain proceeding.”
15
Eminen do-main is a necessary governmenal power o ensure publicineres, bu privae indusry should no be allowed owield his power and abuse i or corporae gain.Moreover, pipeline companies can arge public lands orrighs o way and ake advanage o how public landsmay be undervalued relaive o privae lands, meaningha companies can hen pay less in compensaion olandowners.
16
In some cases, such as he New JerseyHighlands, hese lands are public hrough efors o con-serve oress and armland ha play an essenial role inilering (on a landscape scale) rainwaer ha is ulimae-ly used as a source o drinking waer.
17
The sormwaerrunof ha resuls rom pipeline consrucion projecsdeeas he purpose o such conservaion.
 Accidents, spills, explosionsand lack of oversight and regulation
O course, once a pipeline is buil, he unlucky landown-ers along he pah o he pipeline, or nex door o a com-pressor saion, also have no choice bu o accep livingwih he consan risk o accidens, spills and explosions.Several large pipeline ailures in he pas ew years, lead-ing o massive damage and even loss o lie, have high-lighed his risk.
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 In Sepember 2010, a naural gas pipeline explosionrocked neighborhoods o San Bruno, Caliornia, killingeigh people.
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The Naional Transporaion Saey Boardinvesigaed he cause, and in he words o ChairmanDeborah Hersman, ound “roubling revelaions … aboua company ha exploied weaknesses in a lax sysem o oversigh and governmen agencies ha placed a blindrus in operaors o he derimen o public saey.”
20
 And, according o a
Philadelphia Inquirer 
invesigaiverepor, such revelaions ring rue in Pennsylvania, where“[h]undreds o miles o high-pressure pipelines alreadyhave been insalled in he shale ields wih no govern-men saey checks — no consrucion sandards, no in-specions, and no monioring.”
21
 A key reason or he apparen lack o pipeline oversigh,according o he ederal Pipeline and Hazardous MaerialSaey Adminisraion, is he dificuly o mainaining asaf o inspecors, in par because o high urnover.
22
Ev-idenly, saey inspecors are highly sough aer by pipe-line companies, making i emping or public inspecorso join he privae secor and cash in on heir experience.
Special delivery: radon
Bu rural landowners, and residens along he pah o apipeline, are no he only ones a risk. All he consum-ers o he shale gas may be exposed o harmul levels o radon.Radon is a naurally occurring radioacive maerial hais he leading cause o lung cancer among non-smokersin he Unied Saes, killing more han 20,000 Americanseach year.
23
Any level o radiaion rom radon can dam-age DNA, and his damage can resul in cancer-causingmuaions, so no level o shor-erm or long-erm radonexposure is sae.
24
The U.S. Environmenal ProecionAgency recommends prevenive acion i indoor air con-ains radon above a concenraion o 2 picocuries perlier (pCi/L).
25
 
3
Radon derives rom he radioacive decay o radium, andboh are known o be presen in he Marcellus Shale.
26
Ina preliminary analysis o repeaed samples rom jus woMarcellus Shale wells, he U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)ound ha each o hese wo wells had produced shalegas wih radon above a concenraion o 30 pCi/L.
27
Twosamples rom one well showed ha he produced gasconained radon above 75 pCi/L.
28
Esimaes based onearlier daa sugges ha much higher levels o radon arepossible.
29
 I akes abou our days o radioacive decay o cu radonconcenraion in hal.
30
So, shale gas ha is piped di-recly ino kichens jus days aer exracion could bringa special delivery o high levels o DNA-damaging ra-dioacive radon o American consumers, increasing heircancer risk. The USGS emphasizes ha addiional daaare needed o beter undersand he risk o consumers o shale gas, ye FERC has rejeced concerns raised abouradon exposure rom he consumpion o shale gas.
31
Pipeline companies enjoyspecial tax exemptions
Pipeline companies receive special ax breaks haranslae o lower ederal revenues, and his means haAmerican axpayers have o pick up he slack. The mosilluminaing o hese giveaways is he indusry’s use o Maser Limied Parnerships (MLPs) — a special businesssrucure ha allows he parners, or owners, o a projeco avoid corporae income axes.
32
The lis o MLPs has“long been dominaed by midsream pipeline operaors.
33
 One would hink ha a leas he wind and solar indus-ry could benei rom esablishing he same sor o busi-ness srucures, bu currenly he U.S. Inernal RevenueService explicily excludes invesmens in renewableresources rom qualiying as MLPs.
34
This highlighs jusone o he many ways ha U.S. policy avors he ossiluel indusry, obsrucing he changes needed o remakehe U.S. energy sysem around conservaion, eficiencyand renewables.
35
 
Conclusion and recommendations
Shale gas pipelines are no he energy inrasrucure haAmerica needs i i is o build a clean energy uure.
36
 Shale gas pipelines simply commi he counry o severalmore decades o desrucive dependence on he oil andgas indusry. The noion ha naural gas ofers a bridgeo a low-carbon uure presumes, alsely, ha he indus-ry will willingly walk away rom he billions o dollarsha i plans o inves in naural gas inrasrucure. Andi’s imporan o remember ha no all o he naural gaswould be piped o U.S. consumers. The indusry hopes omaximize is prois by exporing huge amouns o lique-ied naural gas o oreign counries.
37
 Food & Waer Wach recommends ha:
Naural gas consumers demand cerainy abou herisks o radon exposure rom shale gas;
Landowners organize and resis pipeline projecsha hreaen heir saey and heir propery values;and
Federal policymakers overhaul FERC’s narrow scopeo review o pipeline projec impacs, sop graningpipeline companies he power o eminen domain,end he lucraive ax breaks enjoyed by pipelinecompanies and sep up oversigh and regulaion oavoid more pipeline accidens, spills and explosionsin he uure.
Endnotes
1 Northeast Gas Association. [Issue brief]. “Pipeline expansion projects.”October 2012; Petak, Kevin R. et al. INGAA Foundation. “North Ameri-can Midstream Infrastructure Through 2035 – A secure energy future.” June 28, 2011.2 McKenzie, Lisa M. et al. “Human health risk assessment of air emis-sions from development of unconventional natural gas resources.”
Science of the Total Environment 
, vol. 424. May 1, 2012 at 79 to 87; Col-born, Theo et al. “Natural gas operations from a public health perspec-tive.”
Human and Ecological Risk Assessment: An International Journal 
,vol. 17, iss. 5. September 20, 2011 at 1039 to 1056; Bamberger, Michelleand Robert E. Oswald. “Impacts of gas drilling on human and animalhealth.”
New Solutions
, vol. 22, iss. 1. January 2012 at 68.3 Entrekin, Sally et al. “Rapid expansion of natural gas development pos-es a threat to surface waters.”
Frontiers in Ecology 
, vol. 9, iss. 9. October2011 at 503; Food & Water Watch. “Waste: the soft and dirty under-belly of fracking.” April 2012; Lustgarten, Abrahm. “The trillion-gallonloophole: Lax rules for drillers that inject pollutants into the earth.”
ProPublica
. September 20, 2012.

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