Editor’s note: It should be noted the purpose of advertising is to convince people to buy a particular point of view, to buy a particular product. That is, truth does not have to be included in any advertising product. At best you get obscure, round-about truthiness. No offense meant to the ad industries, much offense meant to the spin industry.
From Not In Our Big Bend
Unfortunately, it is time for the weekly Not In Our Big Bend rebuttal to the Energy Transfer Partners, LP / Trans-Pecos Pipeline full-page spread in the Alpine Avalanche.
The company's theme this week? “Our Commitment To Safety.” This Kafkaesque headline follows the rupture, explosion, and fire of an ETP 42” diameter pipeline, near Cuero, Texas on Sunday, June 14, 2015. The ruptured pipeline was constructed in 2012, about three years ago.
But never mind that... we'll all try and retain our sense of humor for the contents of ETP's ad – the unaltered text of the ETP ad are in italics, starting with the preamble:
Our top priorities are the safety of the environment, the safety of the community and the safety of our people. We do this because it makes good business sense, but more importantly, because it is the right thing to do. We are also committed to ensuring the long-term integrity of the Big Bend region's unique qualities and special culture.
You can bet the good folks in Cuero are probably wondering about ETP's commitment to the safety of their region about this time.
THE PAID AD SAYS: Mainline construction will be only scheduled during daylight hours in order to protect the beautiful dark skies of the Big Bend.
We are also working with engineers from the McDonald Observatory to develop best lighting practices for any necessary safety lighting along the route.
Furthermore, local flora and fauna are studied during the survey process and any necessary protections or reseeding are accounted for in the design and construction planning.
WHICH MEANS? Let's dissect this paragraph: McDonald Observatory's official concerns are likely the easiest for ETP to meet on this proposed pipeline project.
The University of Texas McDonald Observatory's needs are for the project to meet the established tri-county dark sky ordinances. Use of controlled-spectrum, full cut-off light fixtures, and adherence to the 11:00pm local time “lights out” aspects of the ordinances in the three affected counties are all that is necessary to meet McDonald's concerns. The lack of night-time construction is a “freebie” also, as it would be impractical to provide the necessary lighting for pipeline construction during overnight hours.
The second claim, relative to surveying the environment, protecting flora and fauna, etc., are entirely specious. Given the deceptive permitting and classification process, the sole part of the proposed project subject to environmental review is the nominal 1093-foot border crossing segment of the pipeline.
The company has submitted their permit to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (“FERC”), using the lowest common denominator National Environmental Protection Act (“NEPA”) compliance mechanism – a cursory, summary report that that 1,093-foot segment does no harm, under Environmental Assessment and Cultural Assessment statements.
Curiously, the company chose to register a portion of that work with FERC under “privileged” status, the Appendix E document regarding cultural impact responses from seven of eight Native American tribes with interests in the region. One wonders what they might be hiding?
As for the larger, nominal 143-mile segment of the pipeline, unless the company or its consultants have been trespassing on private property (ranches, etc.) in the proposed path, no environmental, or cultural studies of any kind have been conducted. So what flora and fauna is the company protecting?
THE PAID AD SAYS: Energy Transfer will schedule meetings with local emergency response services before construction of the pipeline begins to ensure a coordinated response to any emergency.
Meetings with local emergency responders will continued to be scheduled periodically while the pipeline is in service. These meetings can include additional training, new provisions and medical evacuation plans.
No roads will be blocked during construction and there will be no construction at night. Pipelines are typically located well away from residences.
n most, if not all, cases, homes will not be located closer than a few hundred feet. The design and construction of the pipeline is driven, in part, by the population density in proximity to the pipeline.
This is used to determine pipe wall thickness, strength and the depth at which the pipeline will be buried. The pipeline will be buried at a minimum of 4 feet from the top of the pipe; deeper under bodies of water, roads, railways and sensitive areas.
WHICH MEANS? This is certainly wonderful news! To date, there is no record of any conversation between the company, and any local Fire or Emergency Response agency in Brewster or Presidio County, or in Jeff Davis County, all of which operate under an inter-agency mutual-aid agreement.
In the fourth sentence of that paragraph, construction at night is largely irrelevant to the topic, and it must not matter that the roads will be congested with stringing rigs, moving 80-foot pipe segments (about 30 trucks per day, according to sources), or mile-plus long railroad consists (trains) moving pipe down the decrepit, unmaintained old Southern Orient rail line.
If you happen to be a patient in transit from North Brewster County, Jeff Davis County, or north of the Big Bend Regional Medical Center on Highway 118, in need of life-saving emergency services at the hospital, or air transport from Alpine-Casparis for medevac to a Level I trauma center in Midland-Odessa, or El Paso, then maybe ETP will send a condolence card to your loved ones after you've expired in the EMS transport waiting for the train to pass.
If you happen to live within about 1,700-feet of the proposed pipeline, the immediate blast radius in the event of a rupture, explosion, or fire, apparently you don't matter either. More realistically, look at the photographs of the recent rupture, explosion, and fire, of ETP's pipeline in Cuero.
Is one mile, two, three, four or more a safe distance?
If you live in Alpine, or any area closer than about a mile from the proposed pipeline, ask ETP what “area-location” class the pipeline near you is being constructed to. Is it Class I, II, III, or IV? Probably Class I, the minimum pipe wall thickness, because after all, ETP suggests we are a “wasteland.”
THE PAID AD SAYS: The current pipeline route balances the safe construction and safe operation of the pipeline, minimizes the environmental impact, and provides economic development opportunity for local communities and where businesses.
During the planning of the pipeline, a route is selected that avoids, where possible, the crossing of sensitive environmental resources. This, coupled with careful routing around residential areas, defines the route initially.
The route is then field verified through civil, archaeological and environmental surveys that further identify sensitive areas for the project to avoid.
WHICH MEANS? This whole section of ETP's ad is worth a hearty chuckle, isn't it? Given that the whole region is environmentally sensitive, and the pipeline provides no real or lasting opportunity for economic development for the region, what is the company talking about?
If you reside in Sunny Glen, near Alpine, do you feel that adequate and careful routing was used to avoid your neighborhood?
To the earlier point, what studies, exactly, have been done along the 143-mile route that crosses private ranch lands? Are these clandestine studies being conducted at night, by teams of trespassing archeological and environmental consultants? One wonders...
THE PAID AD SAYS: Every weld that joins a section of pipe is inspected both visually and with x-rays.
The entire length of the pipeline is then pointed with an anti-corrosive coating and hydro-tested at one and a half times maximum allowable operating pressure.
The water used for hydro-testing does not contain any additives. Additionally, pressure and temperature sensors are installed at mainline valves and meter stations to provide triggers to shut off the flow of gas in the event of an emergency.
These valves can be triggered within seconds of the identification of a change in pressure. Each valve can be shut remotely or manually within minutes of triggering the signal.
WHICH MEANS? More fun with words!
Certainly, the proposed pipeline will be tested, including visual, x-ray, and hydrostatic testing. The company may even use water for hydrostatic testing that does not contain any pH neutralizers, or oxygen depleting chemicals to reduce its corrosive nature. That's great!
Even with that, the Railroad Commission of Texas requires obtaining a permit for disposal of hazardous wastewater, known as an “HT”, or Hydrostatic Testing disposal permit.
The water used in hydrostatic testing must be disposed of properly, as hazardous, contaminated waste. We must hope the company follows this regulation, rather than dumping the water illegally on the land.
Dig deeper, much deeper, into what actually happens during an emergency on a high-pressure natural gas transmission line.
A rupture, or other event that creates pressure loss creates a specific set of emergency responses that must be followed.
Upstream compressor station activity must be stopped, and the compressor station safely blown down.
Downstream from the compressor station(s), the block valves must be closed, and the line segment(s) between the rupture or problem are may have to be blow down.
Finally, whatever natural gas is in the segment between the nearest upstream, and downstream block valves near the rupture must either vent to atmosphere (best case), or it must burn off in the post rupture explosion and fire.
How long does that take? Minutes, hours? Ask the good folks in Cuero, where the fire burned for approximately four hours.
THE AD SAYS: The Trans-Pecos Pipeline is an important energy infrastructure project that will transport domestically produced, clean-burning natural gas to markets on both sides of the Texas-Mexico border.
Once in service, the Trans-Pecos Pipeline will account for approximately $ 7.1 million annually of additional revenue into Brewster, Pecos and Presidio counties through ad valorem taxes.
For any further questions on the project or environmental safety and protections, we encourage you to call the toll -free project hotline at 1-800-321-7423.
WHICH MEANS CALL EARLY, CALL OFTEN: That is an excellent idea – let's all, each and every one of us give the company a call on their 800-number. Let's ask them who, exactly the project is important to? It does not seem to be us, residents of the Big Bend region. Ask them about depreciation on the pipeline, and exactly how much ad valorem tax revenue is generated for your county, every year for the entire life of the project. Ask them who the project provides clean-burning natural gas to – is it you, on this side of the border? Yes, definitely give the company a call!
Editor’s note: For accurate, fair and updated information, check out Not In Our Big Bend’s website – notinourbigbend.com – Facebook page. Also check all Big Bend area media -- Alpine Avalanche, Big Bend Sentinel, Big Bend Gazette, Marfa Public Radio and KVLF Alpine.