The St. Louis Post-Dispatch is on the story. The Keystone pipeline runs just north of St. Louis to the big ConocoPhilips Wood River, Illinois, refinery where TransCanada opened the Keystone taps last week. Reporter Phillip O'Connor learns that TransCanada hasn't had time to review the Plains Justice report (although O'Connor found time to do so before filing his story):
TransCanada officials said they had not reviewed the Plains Justice report but offered assurances the pipeline was safe. They noted that TransCanada's contracts with mills outline specifications above industry standards, and the company reviews manufacturing processes and quality control tests conducted by the suppliers. In addition, the company performs its own quality assurance checks after manufacturing.
"Our pipeline has been fully tested, and it is safe," spokesman Terry Cunha said [Phillip O'Connor, "Group Fears Leaks in New Oil Pipeline," St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 2010.07.03].
I don't think TransCanada gets it. Kinder Morgan had pretty specific contracts with Welspun, too, telling them the standards the steel for their pipelines needed to meet. Kinder Morgan has quality assurance measures. Kinder Morgan still got defective steel that federal inspectors documented in their pipelines. Kinder Morgan is now suing Welspun.
If the Keystone pipeline were a Toyota, we'd be pulling it off the road for a recall inspection. And our local media would be all over the story.
TransCanada does assure us that they're already conducting the tests Plains Justice is asking for:
TransCanada officials said they already are conducting the tests that Plains Justice is requesting at the directive of federal pipeline safety officials. The company has tested about 40 percent of the line and expects to complete the work by the end of August.
No anomalies have been found, said Jesse Bajnok, a Keystone project engineer. The pipeline is not yet operating at full capacity and will continue to operate well below maximum pressure until all testing is completed, Bajnok said [Phillips, 2010].
I certainly hope TransCanada finds the pipeline is solid... and I certainly hope we'll have available some sort of independent confirmation from federal inspectors. One local official in St. Charles County expresses his concern that a Keystone rupture along the Missouri or Mississippi River could be worse than the BP Gulf spill in terms if immediate effect on surrounding states.
I'd like to believe that TransCanada is as interested in preventing a pipeline blowout as we neighbors of the pipeline are. A Keystone leak would be as bad for TransCanada economically as it would be for Missouri or South Dakota environmentally.
But just two months ago, TransCanada gave Welspun an award for all the fine work Welspun did for them in 2008 and 2009. This just one year after federal regulators issued an advisory warning operators of Welspun's defective steel. Can TransCanada really be so blind to the shoddy performance of a business partner?
Welspun Corp Ltd. responded to TransCanada's praise thus:
"We sincerely thank our customers and partners for the confidence they have shown in our company and products," said Lauri Malkki, CEO of Welspun Corp Ltd. "We have demonstrated how Welspun can cooperatively serve its customers by supplying products from multiple sources with quality and capabilities unmatched in the industry. We are committed to building on this success and expanding our business in and around North America" [no author cited, "Welspun Will Increase Little Rock Employment by 230 Jobs," Magnolia (Arkansas) Reporter, 2010.05.03].
Right... that's why your customers are suing you over bad steel.
Related: Rep. Henry Waxman of California is urging the State Department to deny TransCanada a permit to build its Keystone XL pipeline.
Also related: In a July 2 letter to the State Department urging the same rejection of Keystone XL, Plains Justice and 12 other public-interest organizations document four pipeline spills on U.S. soil in just the first six months of this year. The letter proceeds to address serious flaws in the Keystone XL environmental impact review and highlight the threat posed by the proposed pipeline to the Nebraska Sand Hills and other sensitive ecosystems.