WASHINGTON D.C. — IER President Thomas Pyle published an opinion piece today on National Journal’s energy expert blog in response to the question, “Is the Keystone XL Pipeline Too Risky.” Pyle, a frequent contributor to the expert blog, notes in his column that if the tactics of organizations like the Sierra Club were applied to sewage pipelines in the same way they are seeking to stop oil pipeline construction, America would be overflowing in harmful, raw sewage. To read the entire discussion at National Journal’s expert blog, click here. The text of Pyle’s contribution follows:

Last week dozens of families were notified that a pipeline break in their area had potentially compromised their drinking water. Parents were warned to keep their children away from local swimming areas. Roads were closed. Ominous environmental notices were posted online and in affected neighborhoods.

No, I’m not talking about the recent spill in Mayflower, Arkansas, where 20 homes were evacuated when a 65-year-old Pegasus oil pipeline operated by Exxon Mobil broke and spilled approximately 5,000 barrels of oil – 1/6 the amount of oil spilled by a train derailment in Minnesota just two days before.

I’m talking about North Myrtle Beach. A sanitary sewer pipeline break in the coastal town on Mar. 27 put local residents and vacationers on alert that the Intracoastal Waterway had been contaminated by an untold volume of raw, untreated sewage teeming with dangerous bacteria and other toxics.

Absent the airwaves decrying the danger of sewage pipelines in the Myrtle Beach aftermath was Michael Brune, chief provocateur at the Sierra Club and fierce opponent of pipelines – at least those carrying oil from Canada.

Indeed, there are as many as 73,000 sewage spills in America every year. In the last several years, states including Hawaii, California, North Carolina, Georgia, and others have experienced some of the worst sewage spills since the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency.  Indeed, an entire division of the Environmental Protection Agency is tasked with monitoring wastewater and municipal sewage treatment systems.

But despite the frequent failure of sewage pipelines, nobody seems to be calling for the elimination of such pipelines or opposing the construction of new pipelines. Somehow, Big Sewage gets a pass from organizations like the Sierra Club.

It’s all the more curious that fringe environmentalist groups exploit every incident of oil pipeline malfunction to oppose any new pipeline construction. Such is the case with Mayflower, Ark., and the Keystone XL pipeline.

“The Mayflower . . . tar sands spill demonstrates that the State Department needs answer to exactly what went wrong with the Pegasus pipeline, why Exxon couldn’t shut down the pipeline immediately, and how the administration can assure Americans that the Keystone XL pipeline – at nearly ten times the size – would be safe. The short answer is, it wouldn’t,” Brune opined this week.

It seems in the end that Keystone XL’s most sensational opponents have less concern about safe pipelines than they do about anachronistic anti-petroleum campaigns. These antagonists have an ideological preference for green energy like wind and solar, despite the fact that these century-old technologies have yet to provide the reliable, affordable energy that our economy depends on.

So the next time you hear Michael Brune or his anti-petroleum playmates grandstanding about pipeline safety, ask yourself how many outhouses we would still be using if we applied their same logic to our nation’s sewer systems?

And how many outhouse manufacturers would be enjoying lucrative taxpayer-funded subsidies?


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