While Monday's natural gas pipeline explosion in Eire, Illinois, might have been an accident in the town, it is also a bad precedent of safety measures in a state where fracking is merely months away. While many natural gas pipelines operate without incident, there is a danger, and that comes in the form of little oversight for safety regulations on the pipelines. The problem is that there is no sign of correcting this.
Watch the astonishing blast below:
The incident in Eire was the talk of the town. While remote in location, 80 homes had to be evacuated when the underground pipeline ruptured and exploded the cornfield over it. Flames shot out of the ground approximately 300 feet in the air. The natural gas that runs through the pipeline includes ethane and propane, which is meant to combust for energy purposes, but obviously not in the pipeline.
While nobody was injured in the explosion and subsequent fire, responders could only create a one-mile perimeter and wait for the gas to simply burn out. While details about ramifications are limited, the explosion and exposure of gas under the field is not going to favor the soil for future harvests. The people of Eire are lucky that homes and other combustible sources were not exposed to the explosion.
There was no warning for Eire, much like there isn't warning of flaws or poor conditions in natural gas pipelines across the nations. Federal oversight comes from the Pipeline and Hazardous Material Safety Administration, which is plagued by under staffing of inspection teams, high turnover of employees, and the daily grind of dealing with lobbyists. In a post-sequestration America, the funding for basic safety inspections is less likely and more rare.
Even with safety inspections, there is no way of determining when these accidents are going to occur, making prevention near impossible unless inspection teams have successfully inspected a pipeline with flaws or obvious problems. Yet, the demand for pipelines like the proposed Keystone XL are high, especially with the growth of the fracking industry.
Illinois lawmakers have already debated out and passed legislation for fracking regulations within the state. While proponents point to the wealth that comes with fracking, there are also many environmental downsides to the practice.
If a state that hasn't started fracking experiences an accident that could have been prevented with more regulation and safety inspections, it implies that essential steps to safeguard the well being of citizens are being ignored. Worst of all, there is little access for citizens to look at safety reports for the areas they live in.
The explosion in Eire should be a wake-up call for the problems associated with natural gas pipelines and related processes. Yet accidents have been occurring for years without major changes. Something smells funny with safety regulations, and it isn't just the gas.