In response to that map being spread around with the caption “Remind me which pipeline is a danger to water” or something like that – here’s a map of all of the major pipeline oil accidents over the past 16 years – probably limited to those which required Superfund reporting. I believe there have been over 3000 reported leaks in the lower 48 states since 2010, but I’m not finding my source on that at the moment.
The fact of the matter is that it’s only “safer” if you calculate spills/accidents as ratio to total volume of oil transported. The fact that so much more oil is sent in a short amount of time means that the danger is actually greater.
Julia Minton adds:
California easily loses 10% of its water supply simply to leaks in distribution infrastructure. And while the water board is working to reduce that, it’s still considered an acceptable lose. I’ve heard new jersey loses as much as 30%.
I wonder what is considered acceptable leak lose when distributing oil?
And my friend Mark Walker:
Tempting as it is, you can’t compare rail and pipeline accident rates in a meaningful way. Rail accidents are more frequent, but their consequences are usually quicky contained, and environmentally limited. Pipeline accidents are less given the volume(although more common as far as absolute numbers go) but release far more crude (like 187 times more).
From 2004-2012 rail incidents released 2,269 barrels of crude, while pipeline incidents released 424,000 barrels (pp.133-134 below).