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What caused a gas pipeline leak in Alabama?

The price of a gallon of gas is expected to go up this week along the East Coast, due to a leaky gas pipeline in Alabama. The pipeline delivers more than a million barrels of gasoline every day from Gulf Coast refineries to states from Mississippi to New Jersey. The Wall Street Journal's Alison Sider joins Alison Stewart to discuss.

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  • ALISON STEWART, PBS NEWSHOUR WEEKEND ANCHOR:

    The price of a gallon of gas is expected to go up this week along the East Coast, due to a leaky gas pipeline in Alabama. The pipeline delivers more than a million barrels of gasoline every day from Gulf Coast refineries to states from Mississippi to New Jersey.

    Colonial Pipeline, which owns the pipeline, announced yesterday it will construct a temporary fix.

    Joining me now from Houston to discuss the leak and its impact is "Wall Street Journal" reporter Alison Sider.

    Now, Alison, this leak was discovered during a routine inspection on September 9th yet the excavation and work didn't really get started until last Friday. What happened in between?

  • ALISON SIDER, WALL STREET JOURNAL REPORTER:

    So, yes, one of the problems they've had is that a lot of the gasoline in the pipeline sort of pooled in these manmade ponds. And that's lead high concentrations of vapors that have made it difficult for workers to work in the area for a sustained period. So, on Friday afternoon, they begun the excavation finally, but it's all taken a little longer than they anticipated.

  • STEWART:

    There have been some rules waived by certain agencies to sort of deal with a potential domino effect. Tell us a little bit more about that.

  • SIDER:

    Sure. So, the EPA has waived certain regulations, and the intent there is really to allow more gasoline to come to the area to be sold to prevent shortages. Several south eastern states governors have issued executive orders that are also aimed at increasing the amount of gasoline in the region. So, waiving regulations temporarily that would prevent truckers from driving long enough hours to make it. So, the intent is really to make sure that gasoline can come from sometimes from long distances in order to make sure that there aren't shortages.

  • STEWART:

    Have any environmental concerns been addressed yet?

  • SIDER:

    So, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Agency, that's the federal agency that regulates pipelines, they issued a corrective action order on Friday. It's going to require the pipeline company to take certain steps before restarting the pipelines, really because of the issues we discussed earlier with the vapors, they've only — they are working now to excavate the pipeline and it won't be until then that they really know exactly what happened.

    In the meantime, it seems that the gasoline has really pooled in these manmade ponds, and luckily, I'm being told it hasn't escaped those ponds and flowed into local rivers.

  • STEWART:

    And we talked about a temporary fix, what will that be and how long will it take to get this pipeline back up and running?

  • SIDER:

    So, the fix that the company is proposing is to build sort of a bypass pipeline, the same size the original, and it will just go around the area that broke. So, that — hopefully, that will help them get it up and running again more quickly. The company has said they are aiming to get it restarted this week, though they haven't put an exact date on it yet. And, of course, the longer the pipeline remains out of commission, the greater the impact will be.

  • STEWART:

    And as we started this, we described this happening on a routine inspection. Does anyone know why it leaked in the first place?

  • SIDER:

    No, I don't think that's known yet. Once they're able to excavate the pipeline, they'll be able to get a closer look at the metal and understand what went wrong and perform certain tests. But because of the vapor in the area, it's been hard for them to have workers there on a sustained, over sustained periods. They have been working intermittently to do that.

  • STEWART:

    Alison Sider from "The Wall Street Journal" — thanks so much.

  • SIDER:

    Thanks for having me.

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