Last Tuesday, a natural gas pipeline owned by Canadian energy giant Enbridge exploded in Rusk County, Texas. Conner Wilson, 32, of Longview, an employee of Thunderhorse Oilfield Services, was killed in the explosion, leaving behind a wife and four children. The rupture that led to the explosion was reported caused when a mulching machine, apparently operated by Wilson, struck the pipeline.
Forty-four-year old Jacqueline Greig and her 13-year-old daughter Janessa were among the eight people killed after a pipeline explosion in San Bruno, California in 2010. Their surviving family members recently reached a settlement with Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E), owner of the burst pipeline.
What would you think if someone told you that over 271 pipeline accidents could have been prevented (or seriously contained) all for about $15 a piece? What about if it cost $300 a piece? What price do you put on the safety of more than 400 lives?
Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for pipeline explosions to occur after a resident has reported the smell of gas to the utility company and the company fails to properly respond. That is precisely what happened at a house in Austin, Texas earlier this year in January. In late November, the resident called the gas company, complaining of a gas smell. The company came to investigate, but said it could not make any repairs without a permit from the city. Six weeks later, the man's house exploded, killing him.
The U.S. Department of Transportation's PHMSA division announced that they will be accepting applications for grants of up to $50,000 to help communities be better informed about the role of pipelines in their community. There is a total of $1 million dollars to be awarded. The projects in the past have included technology solutions, public awareness programs, and converting maps into electronic format.