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TSB Engages PHMSA at Pipeline Safety Conference

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Autonomous Light Brigade message directed at the Pipeline Safety Trust Conference 2013 in New Orleans, LA.

TSB recently traveled to NOLA to attend the annual Pipeline Safety Trust (PST) conference held on Nov. 21-22 at the fancy Hotel Monteleone, in the heart of New Orleans’ French Quarter. The PST website says the conference intended to “bring together a unique mix of experience from the affected public, local government, the pipeline industry, and pipeline regulators to discuss the hard issues and create greater understanding to move pipeline safety initiatives forward… It’s the only all-inclusive pipeline safety conference in the country: one that’s open to everyone in the pipeline safety community.”

Sure enough (and much to our surprise) TSB was invited into a room comprised largely of corporate energy tools, whose name tags said things like “Community Relations Specialist” and “Director of Pipeline Risk Management” and “Director of Regulatory Compliance” and “President of Ignoring and Silencing Affected Residents” (okay, maybe not that last one, but you get the idea). Although our crew had many exchanges with the real eco-terrorists from the corporate energy world, our primary goal was to engage directly with the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) team to demand they address the overwhelming number of code violations documented while KXL was being constructed.

Meet Our Regional PHMSA Community Assistance & Technical Services Team

We challenged PHMSA representatives to be accountable to KXL landowners who have called repeatedly to request a meeting, yet continue to be ignored:

This same PHMSA representative, Bill Low(e)ry from PHMSA’s Office of Pipeline Safety – Southwest Region, also admitted on camera, just outside the conference room a few minutes later, that he’d avoid buying a home near pipelines like KXL. Julie Dermansky captured footage of Low(e)ry candidly admitting “something could happen”, see below:

Our Call For A Corrective Action Order On KXL

TSB distributed brochures to deliver the crucial message that KXL-south wasn’t built according to code and needs to be dug up (available here for download). The bottom line is that we know KXL wasn’t welded, installed, or tested adequately. We know that contractors did not properly prepare the pipe trench by removing large rocks or compacting the dirt under the pipeline to prevent it from sagging and leaking in the future. We know that in some parts of Texas more than 72% of pipeline welds failed their first round of inspections. Despite all of this documented evidence, PHMSA has not taken any meaningful action to hold TransCanada accountable for its shoddy construction practices.

Why PHMSA Must Proactively Issue A Corrective Action Order For Keystone XL (Gulf Coast Project)

Why PHMSA Must Proactively Issue A Corrective Action Order For Keystone XL (Gulf Coast Project).

Instead, it would seem, efforts are being made to silence the story. CBS News broke out the story on November 12th about code violations documented in Public Citizen’s report, but the story has since disappeared from its site, perhaps due to pressure from TransCanada. We grabbed a cached copy from the net (thanks Google!), click here to check it out:

New warnings of potential problems with Keystone pipeline
November 12, 2013

(CBS News) WINNSBORO, Texas – CBS News has found evidence of construction problems on the most controversial pipeline project in a generation. The Keystone XL is designed to bring crude oil from Canada to refineries in Texas. Supporters say it will create thousands of jobs and help energy independence. But opponents worry about damage to the environment.

David Whitley was surprised that workers were unearthing the pipe on his property in May, after they finished laying it last year. “I asked, ‘Is there something wrong?’ It’s exactly what I said, ‘Is there something wrong?’ And they said, ‘No, we just want to visually inspect a small section of the pipeline.’”

Whitley took video of the section they dug up. It had been laid on top of a massive rock and was labeled “Dented – Cut Out.”

And what was his reaction when he saw it? “Well when I saw that, I thought they should have done a better job when they first laid the pipe about getting rid of that rock,” said Whitley.

We have obtained warning letters written over the past two months to TransCanada from the federal agency that regulates pipelines. A September 10 letter warned TransCanada it was “not following their Construction Specifications” because “dents on the pipe” were found at dig sites with “rocky terrain.”

And in a second warning, regulators noted a “high weld rejection rate” on a section in which 205 welds — nearly 50 percent — required repairs. The letter said TransCanada “failed to use properly qualified welders.”

David Whitley, whose property contains the Keystone pipeline, took video of a section that was dug up. It had been laid on top of a massive rock and was labeled “Dented-Cut Out.”
/ David Whitley/CBS News

On Tuesday, the watchdog group Public Citizen said it has documented 125 sites where pipe was dug up. Its report notes problems like dents or patches applied to coatings to stop corrosion — issues that if not repaired can lead to leaks. TransCanada maintains the repairs are “normal practice.”

“If they had done the job right in the first place, they would never have been doing digs,” said Evan Vokes, who worked as an engineer for TransCanada from 2007 to 2012. He was fired after he formally complained to his bosses and Canadian regulators about what he said was substandard work on other pipelines, also called “right of ways”.

“To have such a massive amount of patchwork along the right of way,” Vokes said, “indicates that there might be something that’s not quite right with the way the pipeline was put in the ditch in the first place.”

TransCanada declined our request for an interview but told us in a statement the repairs are “a sign that our inspection programs work” — that the company found and voluntarily reported the problems cited by regulators, and replaced about 700 feet of pipe “as a result of construction impacts.”

Some residents want new leak tests before the pipeline is filled with oil. But TransCanada says it’s not needed — that this pipeline will be the safest ever built.

A Closing Toast

As we mentioned in the lead, sharing space with people who destroy the planet and ruin other people’s lives makes it difficult to maintain one’s composure. Although we feel that many people in the room are shameful, vile human beings, we tried our best to bite our tongues just enough to not get thrown out before we achieved our goals. That being said, there were still plenty of confrontations, lots of trolling, and we’d like to share one of our weekend favorites. Cheers y’all.

Sooooo, is PHMSA gonna follow through on their claims that they will meet with landowners and address their concerns? We’ll see if they actually show up, and we’ll see what happens if they don’t…

Permanent link to this article: http://www.tarsandsblockade.org/tsb-phmsa-nola/