The natural gas pipelines ushering the fuel gained via hydraulic fracturing (fracking) are mostly unchecked, with federal and state officials having little to no idea whether these routes are safe, cracked, leaking, or corroded.
According to an AP report, there are thousands of miles of unregulated pipeline going from active fracking wells across the U.S. to larger pipelines transporting the gas to processing facilities. Though many of these pipelines are relatively new construction, there are no guarantees they’ve been built safely or aren’t at risk of cracking, corroding, or exploding.
The report cites a study this week from the Government Accountability Office which counts at least 240,000 miles of natural gas and oil pipeline leading from fracking wells to larger pipelines and eventually to processing facilities around the country. These pipelines are not regulated by the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration and likely could pose major risks to public health and safety. The report indicates some government officials have no idea where many of these miles of pipeline are and some even wind through residential areas.
The federal agency does not oversee pipeline that’s not within 220 yards of at least 10 homes, meaning much of the pipeline going through more rural areas has never been seen by any federal, state, or local inspectors. This fact should cause great concern to those unlucky enough to live near them, considering the fracking industry’s ignorances toward safety regulations thus far.
As fracking has expanded across the country, more and more people are learning of the dangers of the drilling process which seeks to extract natural gas and oil from underground shale formations through high-pressure injections of water, sand, and a mix of more than 600 chemicals (nearly 60 of them being known toxins). Included in these dangers are the man-made hazards created by shoddy construction processes, including the construction of faulty drilling wells and that lack of adherence to proper construction likely extends to the pipelines carrying the fuel elsewhere.
AP interviewed several residents living in northeastern Pennsylvania where a boom in fracking activity has led to the construction of miles of this questionable pipeline, some channelling right past neighbors’ homes. They expressed shock that no agency in government is responsible for ensuring its safety. In fact, there are only about 10 percent of the pipelines carrying natural gas or other hazardous chemicals used in the process that fall under federal regulatory auspices, with hundreds of thousands of miles going unchecked regularly.
Further, if there have been any problems caused by these virtually unknown pipelines, it’s unlikely the public will ever hear about them … the government, too. Because this pipeline is not regulated, natural gas and oil companies using these pipelines in the fracking process are not required to report any accidents, injuries, fatalities, or dangerous releases from them. The federal agency in charge (PHMSA) only concerns itself with the fractional 10 percent of pipeline nearest populated areas. Only preliminary plans to expand oversight of these relatively unknown miles of pipeline exist and it could be years before they’re ever inspected by anyone other than companies which own them.
This lack of oversight presents just another danger to those who believe fracking drilling has or will cause them environmental or health problems. Many people already blame fracking drilling for myriad problems, including the contamination of their water wells with methane gas and other toxins produced or used in the drilling process. Recent studies have also shown that people living within a half-mile of a fracking well are more likely to suffer health problems caused by air pollution generated at a well site.