Earlier this week near Helena, Alabama there was a fire and explosion at a gasoline pipeline operated by Colonial Pipeline Co. One worker perished in the blast, which injured around five other workers. Yesterday Governor of Alabama Robert Bentley announced a state of emergency as a result of the explosion.
The Colonial Pipeline at 5,500 miles long is the biggest pipeline system carrying refined products like jet fuel, gasoline, and diesel in America, according to Reuters. The pipeline can carry three million gallons of these products between the New York Harbor and the Gulf Coast. The explosion happened when workers hit a line with a track hoe, a type of excavator, and occurred in a wildlife area that is unincorporated.
This isn’t the first incident Colonial Pipeline has faced; as recently as September a pipeline leak spilled an estimated 252,000 to 336,000 gallons of gasoline. The spill was the largest in almost 20 years, and interrupted pipeline operations for 12 days. In his statement on the October explosion, Governor Bentley said the operation the workers were performing at the time of the explosion “was necessary to install a permanent repair required by the previous pipeline rupture.”
The governor announced a state of emergency spanning from November 1 to December 1 “unless sooner terminated” in a statement. The declaration will enable the state to receive a U.S. Department of Transportation waiver lifting the government’s “limitation on the hours a driver can transport gasoline.” Fuel companies and shippers are concerned they won’t receive the fuel they need.
In the Southeast, millions of Americans may not receive as much gasoline, and the explosion could even affect the Northeast as well. Colonial Pipeline said they might open the pipeline again as soon as Saturday. They may also attempt to send the refined products via other parts of the pipeline.
On their website Colonial Pipeline advertises their “system integrity” and says “Safety, environmental stewardship, and first-class customer service drive our operating philosophy.”
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