Despite numerous leaks and ruptures of oil and gas pipelines this year alone, the fossil fuel industry consistently tells the public that their infrastructure is safe and reliable despite mounting evidence saying otherwise. The latest pipeline rupture took place Tuesday evening in Platte County, Missouri near Kansas City. The pipeline, which carries a mixture of ethane and propane, triggered a large fire upon rupturing, which eventually burnt itself out after technicians shut off the pipeline to keep its content from fueling the flames. According to local news station KMBC, “plumes of fire and heavy smoke were showing from the scene and lit up the sky from miles away.” Thankfully, no one was injured and no homes or businesses were destroyed by the fire.
The pipeline is operated by the Mid-America Pipeline Company, which has a track record of pipeline leaks and problems. In 2012, they were fined more than $1.2 million for unspecified environmental violations. More recently, just one month ago, its parent company, Enterprise Products Partners, shut down one of its oil pipelines after it leaked in Oklahoma. The company failed to provide even an estimate of the amount of oil discharged into the environment as a result of the spill, though some have speculated that the figure is around 50,000 barrels due to the company’s own statements.
This latest rupture comes amid escalating tensions over the controversial Dakota Access pipeline, whose current route will see it cross the Missouri river, which provides drinking water for millions of Americans. The pipeline’s construction site has been the subject of intense protests since April of this year as local natives have led the fight against a pipeline they say endangers their home, drinking water, and the environment at large. Indeed, if a rupture like this most recent example had taken place in the Missouri river, the outcome would have been much more disastrous, irreversibly damaging the drinking water and negatively impacting the lives of millions.
The sad truth of the matter is that all oil and gas pipelines leak – it is not a matter of if but when. To oil and gas corporations, their pipelines are profit generators. They are only concerned about their bottom lines, not about the environmental devastation leaks cause. For them, it is much more profitable to pay the bare minimum to maintain their pipelines and have a leak once every several years than pay more for constant maintenance and vigilance of their infrastructure. The fallout from these ruptures only concerns them if they are fined or if their profits are threatened in some way. They could care less about its impact on the environment and people’s lives. The fight to ween the world off of fossil fuels goes hand in hand with the fight to hold corporations accountable for their crimes. Until both are dealt with, people and the planet will continue to suffer.