How Reliance on Fossil Fuels Can Explode in Our Faces

Submitted by aweinstein on
Source: NPCA Online (via Flickr)

In his State of the Union address on February 4, President Trump presented a rosy picture of energy in the US, touting America’s energy independence and the expansion of national gas. 

“Thanks to our bold regulatory reduction campaign,” Trump said. “The United States has become the number one producer of oil and natural gas anywhere ay in the world, by far.”

While President Trump correctly identifies that his administration has cut regulations, he should probably be more cautious about bragging about energy deregulation. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has tracked hundreds of gas pipeline explosions and leakage incidents during his administration. Over just three years, at least 13 people were killed, and dozens injured, all while millions of gallons of oil and natural gas spilled into our environment.

If we attempted to list every incident from 2017 to 2019, this article would probably be longer than the State of the Union itself, and even the most comprehensive lists don’t include incidents that resulted in smaller spills. In early 2017, Green America highlighted some of the most damaging incidents of the past few years, but pipeline accidents have continued to occur unimpeded.

From February 2017 to December 2019, these incidents stood out as some of the most impactful:


May 25: A pipeline explosion in residential Mead, Colorado killed one maintenance worker and injured three. Mead is surrounded by gas pipelines and some homes are within 200 feet of the initial explosion.

October 18: In the largest spill off the Louisiana coast since the BP Oil Spill in 2010, 672,000 gallons of oil leaked into the Gulf of Mexico for five days after a pipeline ruptured. The Coast Guard reported that 672,000 gallons had spilled after the company which owned the pipeline, LLOG Exploration, claimed that only 300,000 gallons had spilled.

November 16: The controversial Keystone Pipeline partially ruptured in South Dakota, leaking over 400,000 gallons of crude oil. The spill contaminated huge areas of land surrounding the spill, destroying the crops in the area’s farmland.

November 16: Near Denver, Colorado, a gas pipeline caught fire, killing one worker and injuring two others.

December 5: Two North Carolina farmers, a father and son trying to free their stuck tractor, were killed when a gas pipeline exploded under the tractor. 


June 19: Near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, a natural gas pipeline cracked, spilling over 33,000 gallons of natural gas liquid into a creek. Sunoco, which owned the pipeline, did not stop the leak or inform residents for more than a week after initial reports came in.

July 10: After a contractor failed to properly mark the location of a damaged natural gas pipeline, the pipeline exploded in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin, killing a firefighter and destroying several buildings.

September 7: A pipeline cracked in Decatur, Indiana, releasing 8,195 gallons of jet fuel into the St. Mary’s river, making the river unsafe for swimming and boating. 

December 13: In Las Cruces, New Mexico, a gas pipeline exploded, spilling over 300,000 gallons of gas, over 50,000 gallons of which reached an irrigation ditch with direct contact with groundwater.


March 4: A natural gas pipeline explosion killed two workers in Martin County, Texas, after gas pressure built up in the pipe. 

August 1: In a residential community in Stanford, Kentucky, a gas pipeline explosion killed one person, destroyed five homes, and damaged four other homes. Some residents told reporters that they’d been afraid of living by the pipeline for years. 

October 3: A brand-new pipeline in Miller Grove, Texas ruptured, spilling around 500,000 gallons of diesel directly into Turkey Creek, contaminating over a mile of the creek.

October 29: The Keystone Pipeline began leaking yet again, this time spilling 383,000 gallons into North Dakota.

Activists fought for years against the construction of massive pipelines like Keystone XL and the Dakota Access Pipeline, and these incidents have proven them right time and time again. The dangers of pipelines date back years, and fatal and environmentally disastrous accidents continue to happen at a steady pace. So, as President Trump boasts about our energy independence, don’t forget the people threatened by this shift, particularly the Native Americans whose land and safety are put at risk by high-profile pipelines and the people who may lose their lives and their families. 

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