Whether by pipeline, train, or barge, the process of transporting fossil fuels comes with significant risks to waterways and communities. The build-out of fossil fuel transportation infrastructure also makes it more profitable for companies to expand extraction, locking countries into years of fossil fuel dependence.
Explosive crude oil is being transported in trains traveling through communities and over waterways. Oil trains are vastly under-regulated, carrying oil in outdated tank cars and on inadequate infrastructure, and every derailment poses a serious risk to communities and waterways from oil spills, fires, and explosions.
Building pipelines often involves cutting down extensive areas of virgin forest and digging through streams and wetlands, severely disrupting local ecosystems and devastating downstream water quality. Pipeline construction companies often abuse eminent domain to seize land from property owners. Once pipelines are in place, it is not a matter of whether, but when they will leak. Due in part to poor construction and/or neglect, there have been numerous instances of oil and gas pipelines leaking, catching fire, and even exploding. They kill people and put our environment at grave risk.
Considering that fossil fuel transportation can impact many communities and poses a continued risk of dangerous leaks, spills, and explosions, regulations and the approval processes should be cautious and thoughtful, taking into account all of the potential impacts and whether the action is truly in the public interest. In many countries, fossil fuel transportation regulation and permitting unfairly puts the interests of fossil fuel companies above any other concerns.
Waterkeeper Alliance fights the irresponsible transportation of fossil fuels by:
(1) Exposing and challenging inadequate regulations that put communities and waterways at risk;
(2) Working to delay or stop proposed fossil fuel transportation projects in key watersheds;
(3) Challenging agencies charged with regulating and permitting fossil fuel transportation to be more responsive to the public and take into account all impacts; and,
(4) Exposing the dangerously irresponsible practices of fossil fuel transportation companies.
In 2015, we released a report, Deadly Crossing: Neglected Bridges and Exploding Oil Trains, which focused on the potentially neglected condition of rail bridges carrying oil trains, and the lack of government oversight over rail bridge safety.
Waterkeeper Alliance joined the fight against the Jordan Cove natural gas export terminal and Pacific Connector pipeline in southern Oregon in 2013. The proposal was rejected by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) in a historic 2016 decision. However, in January 2017, the company behind Jordan Cove refiled with FERC hoping to get approval under the new administration. Along with coalition partners, Waterkeeper Alliance submitted comments in July 2017 to FERC vigorously opposing the project.
Historically, FERC has acted as a “rubber-stamp” for fossil fuel companies, downplaying the environmental risks of pipelines and discounting the public’s concerns. Executive orders by President Trump and legislation proposed by Congress attempts to give the irresponsible agency even more power to fast track and green-light oil and gas pipeline crossings of waterways all across the United States. Waterkeeper Alliance is taking action against these attempts to give FERC more power to allow pollution of waterways and communities by fossil fuel companies.
Waterkeeper Alliance joined the Stop ETP Coalition in 2017, partnering with groups throughout the United States demanding dramatic change and accountability from Energy Transfer Partners (ETP), the parent company responsible for the construction of the Dakota Access, Rover, Bayou Bridge, and other pipelines across the United States.