About Pipelines

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Pipelines are very common and often known for the problems they have caused in terms of damage to the environment, drinking water, and private property.  Nevertheless they are an indispensable tool. With most transportation equipment the commodity is loaded on or in the ship, train, truck or aeroplane, a vehicle that moves.  In the case of pipelines the commodity moves and the vehicle is stationary.  Having a transporter that does not move increases safety but if that is the case why do pipelines get so much publicity when they leak or worse yet rupture? Pipelines move so much liquid, slurry or gas so quickly that when they break it is often one hell of a mess. Most often pipelines are buried in the ground and they are not visible – out of sight out of mind.  My uninformed view: they should be on the surface and on bridges not under water bodies.

The big problem with pipelines is that owners are absentee owners they don’t feel the pain when things go wrong; their homes are far away in nicely manicured estates.  People often soften or change when they get a little benefit.  In Canada we have a business model known as a crown corporation. Crown Corporations are like a corporation but instead of having shareholders like a company they are owned by the public.  They may be provincial or federal. In the United States Fannie May and Freddie Mac may be the same sort of animal, they seem to be publicly owned.  In Canada some hydro generating utilities are crown corporations; BC Hydro, Sask Power, Manitoba Hydro and Quebec Hydro are crown corporations. These organizations work very well and only seem to get in trouble when political ideology drives politicians to meddle.

Pipe lines could be held by a different kind of corporation one where the owners are the residents of the lands through which the pipeline pass.  It could be first nations traditional lands, a regional district, a shire, county or similar jurisdiction.  The idea would be that the jurisdiction could own the pipeline and charge an established toll for the commodity that is being moved.  Oil and Gas pipeline interests are making agreements with first nations people when their pipelines pass through traditional lands.  So now they need to recognize other people like the farmers in Nebraska.  An interesting point with this approach is that it may mitigate the problem of pipeline financing. It is often cited how we need to bring in foreign money to finance a pipeline. With this approach there would be a large number of financial contributors all of whom will be able to pay their debt from the revenue derived from the commodity flowing through their pipeline traversing their property.  There are a lot of new pipelines on the drawing board so this is a good time to break the mold.  It would not be difficult to design an opt out plan if a jurisdiction did not want to participate.  A lot of people should be focused on stopping the money from all going to the top.  If pipelines were reorganized to be inclusive having shared ownership and shared financial rewards this would be a good start.  Tell your federal, provincial or state politicians that you want a better deal.

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  1. I absolutely agree. Unfortunately big business and politicians will not like the multi-owner idea. Great idea about pipelines on top AND over bridges. As the recent leak in Saskatchewan proves the out of sight out of mind theory is in full play until a disaster happens. Those pipelines that are being built as shown on TV take as much land as a double highway which is frightening when the governments think they can confiscate that much land from nature and private owners alike.

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