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Biden, Buttigieg, and the People in MVP’s Blast Zone Got Lucky

CLIMATE

ENVIRONMENT - When water pressure blew a gaping hole in the Mountain Valley Pipeline on May 1, folks living near the right of way must have had many mixed reactions—anger, fear, outrage, I told you so, even relief. Relief that it happened now before the pipeline becomes highly pressurized with methane gas. 

If the 42-inch pipeline ever explodes at 1,480 pounds per square inch of gas pressure, it will be like nothing we have ever seen. Anyone nearby will likely not survive.

It will probably also mark the end of Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg’s political career because he oversees the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) whose job it is to make sure MVP gets built safely. Of course, ultimately, it is President Joe Biden who is in charge. His path to reelection, already not easy, will become much harder if MVP ruptures prior to November 5.

It’s 2024, and we know we need to get off fossil fuels ASAP. Why are we building a giant pipeline to suck a climate change accelerant out of America’s biggest deposit of contained methane? 

One thing we know for sure is that MVP’s corrosion-proof coating is “no longer fit for purpose.” We don’t know it because we’re experts. We know it because we understand English and we can read. That quote is from a study done by…TC Energy, the company that wanted to build the Keystone XL pipeline (and may still try to if former President Donald Trump wins again).

The picture of the truck hauling away the ruptured section of MVP pipe is alarming, to say the least, but to the untrained eye it offers no clue as to why the steel separated. Hopefully, there will be transparency regarding the investigation and we’ll be able to trust its findings.

Although we know the pipe coating is no good, up until now we’ve had no reason to necessarily question the quality of the pipe itself. But the company that manufactured the pipe, Welspun, has some history that people should be aware of.

In what seems like a weird combination of products lines, besides manufacturing heavy steel pipe, the company also manufactures fine linen. In 2016, Target and Walmart cut ties with Welspun and hundreds of thousands of bed sheets were pulled off store shelves because they were falsely labeled and not as luxurious as advertised.

In 2010, Plains Justice released a report titled Use of Substandard Steel by the U.S. Pipeline Industry 2007 TO 2009. It begins with this: “Between 2007 and 2009 a number of pipe mills produced substandard steel pipe for U.S. pipeline companies. This pipe failed to comply with the American Petroleum Institute Grade 5L X70 standard (API 5L X70 Standard).”

A few paragraphs later: “A number of companies are implicated in producing defective pipe, but it appears that Welspun Corp. Ltd (Welspun), an Indian steel pipe manufacturer, produced most of it. For example, according to released documents, Welspun was responsible for 88% of pipe with expansion anomalies provided to Boardwalk,” which was one of the pipeline building companies.

In 2009, pipeline company Kinder Morgan sued Welspun because pipe that had been purchased was “defective and would not hold up under the required pressure load.”

So has MVP been built with bad pipe? We don’t know, and we need to find out. But regardless, what we do know is MVP’s pipe coating is shot and “no longer fit for purpose.” That alone is more than enough reason to finally throw in the towel and cut our losses on this insane boondoggle.

It’s 2024, and we know we need to get off fossil fuels ASAP. Why are we building a giant pipeline to suck a climate change accelerant out of America’s biggest deposit of contained methane? How much do we want our grandkids to hate us in coming years? How hard do we want to make their lives?

To understand how we know that MVP’s pipe coating is no good, read this. It also tells about three-year-old Delaney Tercero’s death in a hospital burn unit two days after a gas pipeline (which was minuscule compared to MVP) exploded near her home. The cause of the explosion was corrosion due to defective pipe coating. Her parents and younger sister escaped with their lives, but they’ll never get over their loss. 

(Bill Kitchen is an activist living in upstate New York. He works mostly on climate issues.  This article was featured first in CommonDreams.org.)

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