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WildEarth Guardians

Taking on uninspected, unmaintained oil and gas pipelines

WildEarth Guardians v. Chao et al.
Pending, Complaint filed on August 14, 2018
Case No.
CV 18-110-GF-BMM
Date Filed
December 7, 2017
State, Venue
Colorado, Montana, New Mexico, Utah, Wyoming, Montana Federal District Court
Sarah McMillan, Rebecca Fisher, Samantha Ruscavage-Barz
In August 2018, Guardians filed suit against the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) over their failure to properly inspect and maintain more than 120,000 miles of underground oil and gas pipelines buried on federal public lands across the western U.S. The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), the agency within DOT tasked with ensuring that the network of oil and gas pipelines is functioning properly, is required to inspect this infrastructure on an annual basis. Yet, an investigation by Guardians has revealed that the agency has has not consistently conducted these routine inspections and, as a result, is in violation of the Mineral Leasing Act (MLA), which requires such examinations be administered annually on any pipelines that underlie federal lands.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM), oil and gas pipelines impact nearly 700,000 acres of public lands in the U.S. A majority of this infrastructure exists in the Rocky Mountain West (Colorado, Montana, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming) where oil and gas development has ramped up during the Trump administration. Data collected from state agencies show that more than 7,000 leaks, spills, and other accidents have occurred in federally regulated flow lines since 2009. Such events affect wildlife, soil, and water, and an increase of hydraulic fracturing in these western states is stressing this infrastructure further. In the suit, Guardians asks the court to require that PHMSA identify all oil and gas pipelines on federal lands, catalogue when they have been examined, and ensure that each pipeline segment is examined annually in the future.