America's vast fuel pipeline network: How dangerous is it
"Some residents told reporters they had smelled gas in the neighborhood and had seen
PG&E trucks in the area in the days before the explosion."
Days. Yes, many days. People were complaining of heavy odors coming out of the sewers for THREE WEEKS in that neighborhood. But this is not a post about that explosion, tragic though it is. That explosion is but another symptom of the disdain for human life routinely displayed by corporations.
The map shows natural gas pipelines running throughout the United States. Are they safe? We certainly don't know. Josh helpfully talked about how these pipelines are owned and managed by private companies. One would PRESUME that our federal state and local officials have guidelines and regulations in place to protect public safety. Even still, with such an extensive network, one would EXPECT deadly explosions to take place "from time to time" as a result of "human error" and perhaps "corruption."
Levs showed this map to the CNN audience. Should we be concerned about this network of natural gas pipelines ominously running underneath our country. Should we worry about explosions?
Here's another map:
Naturally Occurring Radioactive Materials (NORM) in Produced Water and Oil Field Equipment -- An Issue for the Energy Industry, US Department of the Interior, US Geological Survey, September 1999 (pdf)
"There currently exist no Federal regulations that specifically address the
handling and disposal of oil-field NORM wastes."
handling and disposal of oil-field NORM wastes."
An excerpt from the report explains that this is a known issue in the oil and gas industry:
October 1991: Janet Raloff "NORM: the new hot wastes - naturally occurring radioactive materials - includes related articles - Cover Story". Science News:Naturally occurring radioactive elements such as uranium, radium, and radon are dissolved in very low concentrations during normal reactions between water and rock or soil. ...Some of this saline, radium-bearing water is unavoidably brought to the Earth’s surface with the oil and must be separated and then disposed, usually by return to depth in an injection well. At some oil-field sites the pipes and tanks that handle large volumes of this "produced water" can become coated with scale deposits that contain radium. Radium bearing scale is the type of "diffuse NORM waste" that occurs in the oil industry. Radium accumulation in oil-field equipment in the United States first became apparent in the 1980’s when scrap metal dealers began to routinely detect unacceptable levels of radioactivity in shipments of oil-field pipe. Since that time the oil and gas industry has sought to better define the extent of the oilfield NORM problem, and to develop techniques for the prediction, prevention, remediation, and disposal of oil-field NORM. In parallel efforts, State and Federal regulatory agencies have worked to develop guidelines for the control of NORM that will adequately protect public health and the environment.
Geologists have recognized for decades that NORM could contaminate equipment and wastes at nearly any mineral-extraction site. But because mining engineers suspected that the risk of finding NORM anywhere but in the residues, or "tailings," of uranium and phosphate mining was small, no one systematically sought it elsewhere. Over the past three years, however, a number of incidents have raised concerns that NORM is ubiquitous -- usually in small, diffuse quantities -- in many industries traditionally regarded as non-nuclear. Indeed, regulators and waste managers now use the term NORM primarily to describe contaminants produced by such industries.
...Some NORM-contaminated sites and equipment may pose a real health hazard. Moreover, the growing number of related incidents poses political, legal and financial headaches for everyone who encounters NORM, from state officials and industrial-waste generators to waste-treatment operators and metal smelters.
...Overall, EPA estimates that most of the NORM-tainted wastes currently generated by oil and gas companies -- about 360,000 cubic meters annually -- sit in storage awaiting a "proper disposal" strategy. Until recently, generators of these wastes dumped much of it "into nearby surface waters or collection ponds," EPA says in its draft report. Some contaminated oil pipes have even found their way into gym sets, bleachers, fences and other outdoor structures...
So inconvenient. First they managed not to look, and then when they could no longer ignore the problem, they realized -- what a hassle! But that was a long time ago. Surely they have figured it out by now, right?
Yes, sort of.
It appears that they figured out how to define the problem so vaguely, and to divide the authority to regulate it across various statutes, so that nothing really gets accomplished and no one can be held accountable. This dramatically reduces the risk of potential political, legal and financial headaches about the radioactive scale in the pipes. It does nothing to protect the public from NORM. Nonetheless, problem solved!
In the U.S., as elsewhere, NORM and TENORM has often been defined by what it is not, rather than what it is. It has been defined by exclusion: it is not low level waste, nor is it source, special nuclear, or byproduct material under Atomic Energy Act.
The definition of source material found in the Atomic Energy Act (AEC 1972) is based on the early safeguards concerns for material that could be used to ultimately make reactor fuel or nuclear weapons. When the definition was written, Congress considered that source materials needed to be placed under regulatory control on the basis of promoting common defense and national security. The health and safety impacts from NORM other than source material were considered to be manageable, to be relatively insignificant, and to have no basis for regulation from the standpoint on the common defense and national security (USNRC 1996).
...EPA and other Federal and State agencies are responsible for regulating public exposures to NORM that are not licensed by NRC. State authority is derived from the Constitution, by which the States have primary responsibility for the health and safety of the public. EPA, State, and NRC programs do not treat the radiological risks from NORM consistently....EPA has authority to protect the public health and environment from adverse affects of exposure to ionizing radiation. The authority to regulate TENORM is derived from several statutes, including the AEA; the Clean Air Act (CAA); UMTRCA (as mentioned before); The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA); and the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) and the Solid Waste Disposal Act (SWDA) explicitly exclude source, byproduct, and special nuclear material (by definition), but they do not explicitly exclude NORM/TENORM.
George Washington's Blog asks "Is BP's Gulf Oil Radioactive?" and points us in the direction of Stuart Smith, a New Orleans attorney:
The slow-kill method, a death-cult favorite.
Exempted from hazardous waste designation by an ’80s-era EPA regulation, the oil company’s waste is being dumped into regular landfills that are not designed for that sort of material. Local jurisdictions, once again, are screaming bloody murder while the U.S. Coast Guard functions as an arm of BP. They are doing this despite the fact that there are licensed facilities that can legally take the waste. It’s just a whole lot cheaper going into a landfill.
As some of you may know, much of my law career has focused on NORM, or naturally occurring radioactive materials. If it becomes exposed or concentrated because of human activities, it’s call “technologically enhanced” or TENORM. Many Americans don’t realize it, but oil can radioactive material like Uranium and Thorium, and different oils have different levels of radioactive material.
Oil companies used to deny that TENORM was all that dangerous, but in fact it has no doubt killed more people than we will ever know. One of my first cases was also one of the first NORM cases, and a jury awarded more than $1 billion to a single victim of Exxon – but, like the stuff left behind from the BP spill, this radiation takes some time to do its damage.
See: getting away with murder
Also see this map. Another coincidence?
We do not know. We take CNN's psyops slides very seriously. We know that Josh Levs put the map up for CNN's viewers to get people wondering whether they are in danger from this extensive network of privately owned gas pipes exploding. We think that explosion concern might be a red herring.