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Invisible lines: The dangers of natural gas pipelines

This week, we bring you a report about the potential danger that is sometimes buried right beneath us: natural gas pipelines. On The Watch List, our series dedicated to reporting on the regulators and agencies charged with keeping us safe, we look at the state of our natural gas pipeline system. With more than two million miles of natural gas pipelines traversing the United States, the opportunity for something to go wrong is high.

In 2005, three people died in a Bergenfield, N.J., apartment building because of a gas pipeline-related explosion. In 2008, a 4-year-old girl was injured and a 64-year-old man was killed in a pipeline explosion in Plum, Penn. Three homes were destroyed and 11 others damaged. And just three months ago there was another deadly blast, this one in San Bruno, Calif., which killed eight people and wiped out 37 homes.

An update released by federal investigators this week on the San Bruno blast focuses on a pipeline welding discrepancy, but it’s too soon to know whether that was the cause of that accident. Gas pipeline explosions happen for different reasons. But all too often, it’s a matter of human error, of companies or individuals not following appropriate safety procedures. Now we bring you the story of one such deadly accident reported by Dallas investigative journalist Brett Shipp.

Enterprise Products Partners sent the following statement to Need to Know:

“The Cleburne incident was a tragic accident and our condolences go out to the Neese family.

Enterprise Products understands that pipeline safety is not just an operating necessity, but a public safety imperative.  We have a comprehensive safety program designed to ensure the safety and health of the public, our employees and contractors.  We are striving to continually improve our safety program to the end of reaching our goal of preventing any incidents involving our pipelines.

Because of ongoing litigation we cannot comment further.”

Producer: Lucy Kennedy


  • NO Gas Pipeline

    We’re fighting to prevent Spectra Energy from building a pipeline right through Jersey City, a city with the same population density of San Francisco. Transmission pipelines of this kind are completely inappropriate for this area, especially when you consider how much “under the radar” contracting work that goes on. NO Gas Pipeline in Jersey City.

  • Miketassie

    absolutly no reason for neese to die givin the stat of the art gps and gis in place these days Ihave done this kind of work in the arctic where there is much more room for error just because the extreme work enviroment and we get tighter work than within 50 ft. insulting to suggest that is acceptable, subcontracts for bp or cp within one hundreth. and Enterprsie is satisfied with such crap that is why we have suveyors the damn egyptions had better notes on their work. hold enterprise responsible and destroy that company before it destroys more families lives. Extreme negligence and gross misconduct certainly a long list of charges should be brought against enterprise and serious examination of any regulatory comm. or board monitoring activities supposedly to insure safe install detection and location and any and all inspection /repair 50 ft. in what universe is that acceptable 50 ft from a volcano you should be ok

  • Guzzimaster

    Pipeline Location Detection: Simply outfit a Pipeline PIG with enhanced GPS monitoring device to create a highly accurate Pipe Line Locatin map. Seems so simple to do, I don’t understand why this isn’t manditory.

  • Bungalowstyle

    Did anyone think to ask if Neese’s employer had done its homework to find all the pipelines near their construction site before they dug? Pipelines crisscross the US for tens of thoudands of miles and there are systems in place to locate them before digging. Why didn’t his employer know where the pipeline was?

  • Henry S. Cole, Ph.D.

    One issue not covered in this excellent video, is the issue of aging and deteriorating transmission lines, such as that in San Bruno, and in recent fatal natural accidents in Philadelphia and Allentown, PA. For coverage see:

  • Anonymous

    Human Lives lost is just a drop in the bucket to Big Oil. “Enterprise Product Partners” repeatedly failed to mark, and sometimes miss mark gas lines, maps allow a difference of a minimum of 50 feet via Texas Railroad? CEO’s of Texas Railroad have FULL POCKETS compliments of Big Oil and the ACCOUNTABILITY for their lack of SPECIFICS in SAFETY REGULATIONS goes UNNOTICED as PEOPLE KEEP DYING??  Where is the Supreme Court Justice for this MURDEROUS NEGLIGENCE?  And now their $ fill lobbyist’s pockets to dismantle the EPA?   Hello!!  We do not forgive, and we do not forget, We Are Legion!

  • Anonymous

    Excellent Suggestion!  Hello Texas Railroad!  I am DEMANDING YOU DO THIS!

  • Anonymous

    Heh! Watch the “ENTIRE VIDEO’ again!!!!

  • Bearybestdcc

    we need answers. pipeline has been installed down our road, now a substation is going to be installed. No one in our area was notified. How can this be? The accident that wipped out 37 homes in Cal. was cause by human action, This is something that we should be made aware of. Not one sign of danger is posted.