Union Joins Sierra Club filing on leak risk of under-standard thin-wall pipe
Contacts: Dave Dowling 618-452-1130; 618-670-6811 or Gary Hubbard 202-778-4384; 202-256-8125
Pittsburgh (Apr. 9) – The United Steelworkers (USW) announced it has challenged the pending federal permit in the controversial $5.4 billion TransCanada Keystone Pipeline that’s using under-standard thin-wall pipe for transport of crude oil from Alberta, Canada to Houston, Texas.
USW International Vice President Tom Conway transmitted a formal complaint to the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) on Apr. 6, urging the special permit requested by TransCanada be denied. He said the 2,000 mile pipeline is planned using a 36-inch thin-wall pipe at higher maximum operation pressure than is safely permitted under existing regulations. Read the entire Conway letter here.
“Our members work hard to produce quality steel and large diameter crude oil transmission pipe right here in the U.S. that meets all safety requirements,” Conway said. He adds that the USW-represented steel and pipe production workers “do not want to be denied the opportunity to provide that quality pipe based on a waiver of a fundamental safety regulation promulgated under the normal rulemaking procedures.”
The use of pipe imports from India called attention to the issue when 1,000 steelworkers on lay-off at the nearby US Steel Granite City mill joined an Apr. 7 demonstration that raised questions about foreign pipe being used for a separate TransCanada pipeline with a terminus to the Conoco-Phillips refinery in Wood River, Il. The Granite City steelworkers produce flat-roll products for domestic pipe makers.
About 2,000 steelworkers at USS Granite City have been out-of-work since December, and several thousand pipe workers are also on long-term layoffs at pipe mills all across the country.
In the DOT submission, the union wrote it was in agreement with the serious safety concerns filed earlier by the Sierra Club on the pipeline’s permit application, declaring, “non-compliance would increase the risk of ruptures, leaks and spills and lessen pipeline safety by the use of thinner pipe and greater operating pressure.”
The USW said, “Hazardous material pipelines historically have a much greater risk of rupturing because of the overpressure that occurs in surge events.”
Among the issues raised by the USW on the thin-walled pipe being used by TransCanada, Conway said the pipeline company proposes to transfer tar sands bitumen, which largely differs from typical crude oil in its chemistry and mineral components. “The company does not address what internal corrosion may occur from the higher mineral content existing in tar sand bitumen.”
Conway questioned: “Allowing operation at a greater percentage of maximum operating pressure means allowing construction with thinner pipe, which will have less ability to withstand corrosion over time.”
According to the USW’s complaint, the ‘U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration’ (PHMSA) recently completed rulemaking related to maximum operation pressure standards for natural gas pipelines, but not for crude oil pipelines, even though crude oil pipelines historically have posed a much greater risk.
“In effect, by doing so, PHMSA is amending a promulgated regulation,” the USW said, and such an amendment “would appear to exceed the authority provided to PHMSA.”
A copy of the USW’s public comment letter to the DOT is available by clicking here.