The Geography of Oil and Gas Pipeline Accidents [Updated]

Safety is one trigger in the heated debate over whether fossil fuels should be transported by pipeline. While the industry insists the method is safer than others, the spread of accidents since 1986 is substantial.

2 minute read

December 8, 2016, 10:00 AM PST

By Philip Rojc @PhilipRojc


Trans Alaska Oil Pipeline

Maureen / Flickr

[Updated Dec. 9, 2016]

In the wake of the protests at Standing Rock, oil and gas pipelines remain as fraught an issue as ever. George Joseph writes, "Oil industry supporters argue that pipelines are safer alternative to hauling fuel by tanker trucks or freight trains. [...] Environmentalists, however, point to a lack of adequate state and federal regulation and the difficulties of maintaining millions of miles of aging pipeline infrastructure."

The statistics bear some of those worries out. "Over the last twenty years, more than 9,000* significant pipeline-related incidents have taken place nationwide, according to data from the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration. The accidents have resulted in 548 deaths, 2,576 injuries, and over $8.5 billion in financial damages."

[*Editor's note: A representative at the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Administration (PHMA) of the U.S. Department of Transportation contacted Planetizen to point out that the reported 20-year total of significant pipeline incidents is 5,675. Incidents deemed significant have resulted in 347 fatalities, 1,346 injuries, and $7.5 billion in costs. All data for pipeline incidents, significant and otherwise, are available online.] 

Using federal data compiled by environmental advocate Richard Stover, CityLab mapped out all major pipeline accidents occurring from 1986 through 2016. "Significant pipeline-related incidents have picked up in recent years in certain states. In Texas, for example, the effects of the state's drilling boom may be seen in its increased accident rate: since 2009 the state has had 497 incidents, over a hundred more than in the seven years before."

Wednesday, November 30, 2016 in CityLab

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