Pipelines Leak, Colonial Could Pay For Its NC Damages

By Ashira Morris, ODP Staff Writer

Following a massive gasoline leak in Huntersville, North Carolina, Colonial Pipeline could face a daily fine of $200,000 if it doesn’t improve how it detects leaks. Colonial’s pipes leaked almost 18 times more gasoline than it originally estimated, sometimes thousands of gallons at a time with the Huntersville leak releasing around 1 million gallons of gasoline

The company is also facing legal action from North Carolina’s Department of Environmental Quality after last summer’s leak. The spill was one of the state’s worst, according to Michael Regan who led the NCDEQ before becoming the EPA Administrator. 

Why This Matters: All pipelines can and often do leak. Colonial’s leaks pose serious harm to nearby communities and sadly aren’t an anomaly. There is an average of 300 pipeline spills per year, and from 1986 to 2013, these incidents have spilled an average of 3 million gallons annually. 

Pipeline spills aren’t a major financial concern for operators, but for the communities in which they occur, they bring immeasurable harm and financial burden.

Pipeline Construction Status Check: Despite the multiple layers of risk, the U.S. is still moving forward with the construction of new pipelines, although some have successfully been stopped. That’s a shift after an active decade of construction.

Yet it’s a difficult predicament of a Democratic administration. Many unions support the construction of pipelines and the jobs they bring. Unions are an important political constituency for Democrats to stay in office and continue to deliver action on climate change.

Dakota Access Pipeline: This May, a federal judge ruled that the pipeline can keep operating while its environmental review moves forward, and last month dismissed a lawsuit filed by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe challenging the operation of the pipeline. The review isn’t expected until March 2022

Line 3 Pipeline: Last month, the Biden administration backed the oil pipeline that would threaten “Minnesota’s delicate watersheds,” as the New York Times writes, replacing an old pipeline that’s prone to leaks from Canada into the U.S. There are multiple legal challenges to the project, including one by Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians and the White Earth Band of Ojibwe, along with several environmental groups. 

Keystone XL Pipeline: The tar sands pipeline was ‘inevitable’ until it wasn’t. On his first day in office, President Biden denied the project a necessary permit and the energy company behind it canceled, stopping 800,000 barrels of oil a day from flowing from Alberta, Canada. 

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