The U.S. is crisscrossed by around 2.5 million miles of transmission and distribution pipelines carrying natural gas, crude oil, and various petroleum products (see figures). The popularization of commercial pipeline technology has been occurring since 1865; it is by no means untested, but has been a contentious issue since the very beginning.
Initially pipelines were opposed because they dramatically reduced the number of jobs available. Even in the 21st century over 1,100 miles of pipeline only results in 35 permanent jobs.
As the technology continued to spread, leaks and accidents became a major public safety concern. The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration reports that from 1996-2015 11,194 pipeline incidents have been reported causing 362 fatalities, 1,379 injuries requiring in-patient hospitalization, and over $6.6 trillion in costs. There have already been 439 new incidents including 12 fatalities and 60 injuries in 2016 alone.
Besides the monetary expense and cost of human life, many oppose pipelines because of their environmental impact. Regulated and supposedly legally maintained pipelines have been confirmed to have polluted local groundwater, threatened species of animals and vegetation, as well as contribute to anthropogenic climate change.
The courses of pipelines frequently pass through private and protected land giving rise to the issue of eminent domain. Since pipelines are aesthetic nightmares, the risks are substantial, and no one appreciates having their land appropriated, wealthier individuals fight the proposed sitings. As a result, low-income and minority communities are disproportionately impacted.
Between the social injustices, danger to public health and safety, environmental degradation, and impact on climate change we, as Christians, have many reasons to oppose pipelines. Begin by taking a stand against the pipelines proposed to be built in your own backyard.
Photo used under Creative Commons License.