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Little Known Pipeline Draws Debate in North Texas

By Jack Douglas Jr. and Jason Allen
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(credit: KTVT/KTXA) Jason Allen
Jason came to North Texas after working as a reporter for four y...
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It snakes through North Texas, buried or in the process of being buried, drawing little attention for anyone other than the people who live and work near it.

“People should be concerned about this …,” said Rita Beving, a member of the watchdog group, Public Citizen, and an opponent of the new Seaway pipeline being placed in parts of North Texas.

But Bob Hodges, a pipeline safety instructor, disagrees, saying, “There is no problem whatsoever. The country needs these new lines …and the inspection process is rigorous.”

There’s nothing like laying a new oil or gas pipeline to fuel debate on whether they are safe. Opponents say that, at least in some cases, they are not. But those in favor of new energy infrastructure say there is little chance of problems, because pipelines are built stronger, they are regularly inspected and they are necessary to meet the country’s growing energy needs.

The Seaway is 500 miles long, running from Cushing, Okla., to the Texas Gulf Coast. It cuts a swath through Collin, Rockwall and Kaufman counties, and will transport a thick form of crude oil known as diluted bitumen – or, as opponents call it, “tar sand.”

A similar pipeline, the Keystone X-L, has triggered protests and political debate.

But that didn’t happen with the Seaway, according to Beving, because the line is being buried along an existing pipeline easement, already approved by the government.

“Actually, it should scare people a little more because it’s going to carry more oil than the Keystone pipeline,” she said.

And because of its density, Beving said, chemicals have to be added to allow the crude to flow adequately through the Seaway pipeline. “They have to mix it with natural gas condensate and a host of toxic chemicals …and then they have to highly pressure it in order to push this peanut butter-like substance through the pipeline,” she said.

If there is a leak, Beving added, “people may have to be evacuated as far as six miles away from the pipeline.”

But that is very unlikely to happen, said Hodges, an instructor with the Danielle Dawn Smalley Foundation, which was started by the father of a young woman who died in the summer of 1996 in a butane pipeline explosion in Kaufman County.

“Though there’s a little inconvenience at first, while the new lines are going in, they’re very safe…and the inspection process is rigorous,” said Hodges, whose foundation is supported by the energy industry.

“We’re real close to being energy independent because of this new infrastructure,” he said.

Enterprise Products and Enbridge, the two companies that own and operate Seaway, both declined interviews with the I-Team.

Enterprise sent a statement, instead, that said: “Independent testing, including a recent study conducted by the National Academy of Sciences for the federal government, has found that diluted bitumen is no more corrosive or likely to cause a pipeline release than other grades of crude oil that have been safely transported for decades.”

Company officials, in their Seaway website, also say the new pipeline will generate more than 3,000 jobs.

But Beving said the risks outweigh the benefits, mainly because of the type of crude that will be moved through the line.

“Because this is not your granddaddy’s West Texas crude,” she said, “this stuff is hazardous.”

If you want to reach CBS 11′s Senior Investigative Producer Jack Douglas Jr., you can email him at jdouglas@cbs.com. If you want to reach CBS 11′s Jason Allen, you can email him at jmallen@cbs.com.

(©2014 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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