Creating Our Own Fault Lines

Cushing, Oklahoma, prides itself on being the pipelines crossing of the oil industry in this country.

Dubbed the “Pipeline Crossroads of the World,” Cushing is the nexus of 14 major pipelines, including Keystone, which alone has the potential to transport as much as 600,000 barrels of oil a day. The small Oklahoma town is also home to the world’s largest store of oil, which sits in hundreds of enormous tanks there. Prior to this recent spate of natural disasters, Cushing oil levels were already high. They’ve increased nearly a million barrels, to nearly 60 million barrels, since Harvey hit.”

Oklahoma is vulnerable to tornadoes, but above ground storms are not a threat to the pipeline system, which is below ground. Oklahoma used to be considered seismically stable which, along with geographic location, made the state idea for oil storage and distribution.

No more. The state has become seismically unstable, for an entirely man-made reason: fracking. Oklahoma has become the most seismically unstable of the lower 48 states. And the pipeline and storage systems were built to safety standards that reflect the former reality, not the current one. Those standards reflect the priorities of the American Petroleum Institute, and reflect the group’s desire to get oil to market as quickly and inexpensively as possible. There is little in the API’s list of priorities that shows concern for protecting the public.

Don’t look to the Trump administration either, for the reasons we’ve seen already. The EPA under Scott Pruitt certainly isn’t going to  stand up. Nor will the Department of Energy, or the Department of Transportation.

We the public are on our own, and at the mercy of seismic activity whose potency we’ve literally created from once stable ground.


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