Unlike the South Dakota press, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch continues to give well-researched coverage to mounting concerns over the integrity of the Keystone pipeline. Reporter Phillip O'Connor finds that the Obama Administration is going softer on pipeline companies than the Bush Administration did:
Pipeline safety officials first learned of problems with defective steel while conducting tests on several projects built during a pipeline construction boom from 2007 to 2009. An investigation revealed that several lines contained significant amounts of defective pipe that stretched under pressure. The problems were traced to defective steel produced by several mills, but mostly by Welspun Power and Steel, a manufacturer based in India.
Almost half of the steel in the 30-inch Keystone pipeline came from Welspun and was manufactured about the same time the company provided defective steel on several other pipeline projects.
In some cases, the Pipeline and Hazardous Material Safety Administration took remedial action.
In April 2009, for example, the agency ordered the Houston company, Boardwalk Pipeline Partners, to replace more than 300 sections of newly built 42-inch gas pipeline, about half of which had expanded by as little as 0.6 percent.
But then in October 2009, the pipeline agency issued new guidelines. From that point on, only pipe that expanded by at least 1.5 percent would need to be replaced. Companies were told they needed to notify the agency only of expansions of 1 percent or more [Phillip O'Connor, "Concern Mounts over Oil Pipeline Safety," St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 2010.09.01].
October 2009. Nope, can't blame Bush for that one. Plains Justice rightly alerted all of us to the huge amount of Welspun steel in the Keystone pipeline. The Welspun steel now carrying 435,000 barrels of tar sands oil a day across eastern South Dakota clunked out of Indian foundries about the same time as the batches in which inspectors found hundreds of defects. The rules of the previous administration forced pipeliners to dig that bad steel up. Then President Obama's people changed the rules and said the same potential danger in a pipeline across South Dakota wasn't worth digging up.
TransCanada thanks you, I'm sure, Mr. President, but we're the ones whose votes you need... and who live atop hundreds of miles of potentially leaky Indian steel (not to mention pump stations blowing gaskets almost every month). Let's bring back the Bush-era rules and check out that pipeline!