Editors Notebook: Pipeline safety questioned in WSJ report

There are a couple of new reports out about energy pipeline safety that caught the attention of the opponents to the Bluegrass Pipeline, which is slated to pass through Nelson County.

The Wall Street Journal published a report (subscription required) Jan. 20 that found remote sensors catch only 19.5 percent of pipeline spills that are reported.

"Energy and pipeline companies like to point out they use high-tech sensors and remote-monitoring systems to automatically alert engineers when a pipeline starts to leak oil," the Journal found.

"However, most leaks usually aren't discovered that way, according to a review of four years of liquid pipeline accident records. The overwhelming majority of these pipeline spills, ruptures and leaks were discovered by somebody near the accident site, a Wall Street Journal review of a database of more than 1,400 accident reports collected by the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration found."


Bluegrass Pipeline officials have insisted that the pipeline, which would carry up to 400,000 barrels of natural gas liquids a day, would use the latest in sensor technology to monitor for leaks that could potentially contaminate area ground water.

Closer to home, Ben Kaufman, a reporter for Cincinnati's alternative newspaper City Beat, wrote about the potential for a spill from the Bluegrass Pipeline into the Ohio River, which crosses upstream from Cincinnati. Kaufman wrote that there had been scant coverage and raised several issues that should be answered toward the end of his piece. The Queen City had a recent scare from from the plume of the chemical MCHM that flowed downstream from a massive spill into West Virginia's Elk River that left 300,000 without water for days and resulted in a declaration of disaster for the area.

And there are still new details coming out about the West Virginia spill, including the company's failure to report a second chemical involved