‘Everything’s on fire’: Inside the US failure to safeguard pipelines

By Mike Soraghan | 05/02/2024 06:16 AM EDT

Biden’s and Trump’s energy plans depend on building new pipelines, but conflicts of interest undermine safety inspectors and carry deadly risks.

Crews work in 2017 to remove diesel-laced pipeline drilling fluid

The destruction caused by a pipeline explosion can be catastrophic, both in the blast zone and in areas contaminated by exposure to volatile petrochemicals. Ohio EPA photo obtained by Ohio Sierra Club through open records request

The inspectors warned for months that the construction crew was burying the pipeline on unstable ground. In at least a dozen reports, they described soupy soil, landslides and failed efforts to contain runoff. But the crew kept working as the problems mounted. The Revolution ethane pipeline had to get built.

In September 2018, just below a neighborhood outside Aliquippa, Pennsylvania, the muddy hillside gave way. The landslide severed the pipe, and the dense gas inside erupted into a roaring inferno.

The blaze incinerated a house. The family inside escaped with just the clothes they were wearing and one of their dogs. Their other pets, a dog and several cats, died in the fire.


Karen Gdula, who lives nearby on Ivy Lane, raced through the neighborhood shouting, “It’s the pipeline. Everything’s on fire. Get out now!”