We’ve discussed the dangers of pipeline explosions in the past, but there is a growing risk to rural Americans with which many Missouri and Illinois residents may be unfamiliar. As the prevalence of “fracking” — which refers to harvesting oil and natural gas by horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing through hard shale formations — increases, so does the need to transport these resources. This has led to a corresponding explosion in the use of underground pipelines known as fracking gathering lines. Some fear that these lines could be at a higher danger for pipeline explosions due to the fact they are largely unregulated in rural areas.
In fact, approximately 90 percent of American gathering lines fall under no federal guidelines governing construction and safety. This is for the simple fact that they are in rural areas rather than more developed regions such as towns or cities. Interestingly, these gathering lines suffer from the same risks as the more heavily-regulated transmission lines; including potential corrosion, construction accidents, earthquakes or even sabotage. Unfortunately, however, federal law just doesn’t govern them the same as the other types of underground pipelines.
Safety advocates along with safety regulators have attempted to enact more stringent guidelines on these lines, but energy industry insiders have resisted these changes. Those who could pay the price are the innocent Americans living in rural areas who are convinced to sign over the rights to place such pipelines on their land, without fully understanding the ramifications. One couple agreed to have a pipeline placed on their land, but it was supposed to be built at some distance from their house, decreasing the chance they would be injured or lose everything if a pipeline explosion did occur. Unfortunately, however, the gas company actually built the pipeline mere feet away from their front porch.
This has left the couple fearing they could meet a grisly fate if the worst should occur. It is a fear that could come to pass. While somewhat rare, such pipeline explosions do happen across the country. One explosion in San Bruno, California claimed the lives of eight people and demolished at least 40 homes. Another explosion just months before that killed two workers who were in the process of transporting rock out of a pit in Texas.
Our country currently houses at least 240,000 miles of gathering lines, with another 414,000 anticipated to be constructed over the next 21 years. One federal official who works at the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) says that the fact these gathering lines are so unregulated often causes her great concern. She fears the fact that there are no set safety guidelines governing how they are built or maintained, and that no safety regulators are keeping an eye on them.
In the event that the worst happens and Missouri or Illinois residents are injured or lose loved ones due to pipeline explosions, they have the right to seek financial restitution against the owner of the fracking gathering lines. These particular underground pipelines may not be subject to federal guidelines, but personal injury and wrongful death laws do allow injured victims the right to be reimbursed by filing a civil lawsuit. If you call my St. Louis personal injury law firm toll-free at 1-888-586-7041, we can schedule an initial consultation at your earliest convenience. This will allow you to learn more about your rights under the law as you decide how best to proceed in the wake of your injuries or loss.
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