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Mon Jan 30, 2012, 10:11 AM

Palast newsletter: The Pig in the XL Pipeline

In my email:

Insider reveals concealed "error" in pipeline safety equipment that could blow away the GOP's XL pipe dream

by Greg Palast

"They threatened me. Last night I got a call and they threatened me. If I talked."

"Pig Man #2," a pipeline industry insider, had a good reason to be afraid. He was about to blow the whistle on a fraud, information that could blow away the XL Keystone Pipeline project.

His information: The software for the crucial piece of pipeline safety equipment, the "Smart PIG," has a flaw known to the industry but concealed from regulators.

The flaw allows cracks, leaks and corrosion to go undetected - and that saves the industry billions of dollars in pipe replacements. But there's a catch. Pipes with cracks and leaks can explode - and kill.

Federal law requires the oil and gas industry to run a PIG, a Pipeline Inspection Gauge, through big oil and gas pipelines. The robot porker, tethered to a GPS, beeps and boops as it rolls through, electronically squealing when it finds dangers.

But whistleblowers told us at Channel 4 Dispatches (the "60 Minutes" of Britain) that the software is deliberately calibrated to ignore or minimize deadly problems. They know because they themselves worked on the software design team.

This week, President Obama refused to issue a permit for the Keystone XL Pipeline, but invited its owner, Trans-Canada, to re-apply. The GOP has gone wild over Obama's hesitation, screeching that slowing the Canada-to-Houston pipe for a full safety review is a jobs killer.

But it's the Pipeline that's the killer. Here's what Pig Man #2 told me, on camera, his face in shadow:

When his team found the life-threatening flaw in the program, they immediately created a software patch to fix it. But then their supervisor ordered them to bury the fix and conceal the problem.

With the PIG calibrated to the danger sensitivity required by law, oil and gas companies would have to dig up, inspect and replace pipe at a cost of millions per mile. That's not what the oil companies wanted from their contractor that designed the PIG program.

The programmers' bosses took no chances. "We had to sign nondisclosure agreements." They were required to conceal "any problems of this sort or the nature of the software we worked." It could not "be made public at all. Under threat of lawsuit." Nice.

With the error left in place, he said, "People die."

Pig Man #2 was shaking a bit when he said it. On September 9, 2010, a gas pipeline exploded, incinerating 13-year-old Janessa Greig, her mom and six others.

A PIG - an honest PIG - would have caught the bad welds in the old pipe.

Trans-Canada says that Keystone XL won't contaminate the Ogallala Aquifer, the Plains states' crucial water source. Keystone's permit application boasts that we can rely on XL's "full pigging capability."

Sure. Last summer, an ExxonMobil pipeline burst and poisoned parts of the Yellowstone River - only months after it had been "pigged."

The danger of a muzzled PIG goes beyond Keystone XL. New gas fields opened by hydraulic fracking will require over 100,000 miles of new transmission pipe.

This week, Newt Gingrich called Obama's temporary block on the XL Pipeline, "stunningly stupid"; and Mitt Romney said Obama's decision threatened America's "energy independence." (Mitt, the oil is from, uh, Canada.)

But the real question is, can we trust these pigs? And not just the ones in the pipeline.

****

Greg Palast, whose reports can be seen on BBC Television Newsnight, is the author of the New York Times bestsellers, "The Best Democracy Money Can Buy" and "Armed Madhouse." His latest book, Vultures' Picnic, includes Palast's investigation of the Deepwater Horizon explosion, vulture capitalism, and "the pig in the pipeline."

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Arrow 21 replies Author Time Post
Reply Palast newsletter: The Pig in the XL Pipeline (Original post)
Generic Other Jan 2012 OP
snagglepuss Jan 2012 #1
Richardo Jan 2012 #2
niyad Jan 2012 #4
Richardo Jan 2012 #9
arcane1 Jan 2012 #14
niyad Jan 2012 #15
redqueen Jan 2012 #11
Richardo Jan 2012 #13
think Jan 2012 #3
CaliforniaPeggy Jan 2012 #5
niyad Jan 2012 #6
starroute Jan 2012 #7
niyad Jan 2012 #16
starroute Jan 2012 #18
niyad Jan 2012 #21
jwirr Jan 2012 #8
arcane1 Jan 2012 #10
redqueen Jan 2012 #12
T S Justly Jan 2012 #17
AdHocSolver Jan 2012 #19
lonestarnot Jan 2012 #20

Response to Generic Other (Original post)

Mon Jan 30, 2012, 10:16 AM

1. K & R

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Response to Generic Other (Original post)

Mon Jan 30, 2012, 10:19 AM

2. Good material, but hard to take seriously with the cutesy phrasing and tabloid hysteria.

I thought Palast was a better writer than that.

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Response to Richardo (Reply #2)

Mon Jan 30, 2012, 11:49 AM

4. cutesy phrasing? he was not the one who invented the name of that object

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Response to niyad (Reply #4)

Mon Jan 30, 2012, 01:17 PM

9. "The robot porker, tethered to a GPS, beeps and boops as it rolls through, electronically squealing-

...when it finds dangers. "


Horrible. Fox and Friends horrible.

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Response to Richardo (Reply #9)

Mon Jan 30, 2012, 01:54 PM

14. That style is one of the things I love about him

 

It makes his books and reports both informative and fun. It also helps offset the inevitable anger the stories inspire

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Response to Richardo (Reply #9)

Mon Jan 30, 2012, 04:32 PM

15. well, having heard an example of how they work, that is a fairly accurate description

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Response to Richardo (Reply #2)

Mon Jan 30, 2012, 01:25 PM

11. Nah he's always been ... er

colorful, with his wording.

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Response to redqueen (Reply #11)

Mon Jan 30, 2012, 01:43 PM

13. Ah well.

rq!

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Response to Generic Other (Original post)

Mon Jan 30, 2012, 10:20 AM

3. K&R TY for posting. These whistle blowers need to get immunity and testify before congress /nt

 

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Response to Generic Other (Original post)

Mon Jan 30, 2012, 11:56 AM

5. This information needs to be shouted from the rooftops.

I am appalled and horrified, but perhaps not surprisingly, NOT surprised.

To ensure that profits keep coming, ANY corner has been and will be cut.

Despicable.

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Response to Generic Other (Original post)

Mon Jan 30, 2012, 11:57 AM

6. k and r and thank you for posting this.

greg was talking about this during a speech in SF (I think) about his book "vultures' picnic"

there is nothing, apparently, that the oil companies won't do to insure their obscene profits.

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Response to Generic Other (Original post)

Mon Jan 30, 2012, 12:18 PM

7. Funny -- I just read those pages in Vulture's Picnic yesterday

Palast has been after the energy industry for decades -- and the stories he has to tell just get deeper and dirtier.

Yes, his style can be overly cinematic at times, but he's earned the right to it. There's blood on every page of that book.

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Response to starroute (Reply #7)

Mon Jan 30, 2012, 04:36 PM

16. have you read the section about the fukishima nuclear plant--the company involved in it, the same

one that just got a contract for eight new plants here?

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Response to niyad (Reply #16)

Mon Jan 30, 2012, 08:59 PM

18. No, I haven't gotten that far

The book is half gripping and half dismaying, so I've been going through it kind of slowly.

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Response to starroute (Reply #18)

Tue Jan 31, 2012, 11:04 AM

21. I know what you mean--it took me three times to watch the whole speech-- I would just get too mad

and too sick to continue.

and we notice that the msm does not cover this at all.

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Response to Generic Other (Original post)

Mon Jan 30, 2012, 12:26 PM

8. This needs to get out there. More faulty equipment just like that used in the Gulf.

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Response to Generic Other (Original post)

Mon Jan 30, 2012, 01:24 PM

10. Greg rocks!!!

 

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Response to arcane1 (Reply #10)

Mon Jan 30, 2012, 01:25 PM

12. Oh yes,

he does.

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Response to Generic Other (Original post)

Mon Jan 30, 2012, 04:59 PM

17. Good reportage, as usual, from Greg Palast. Thanks. K&R (nt)

 

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Response to Generic Other (Original post)

Tue Jan 31, 2012, 12:38 AM

19. K and R.

Software developed on the same principles as the software developed for paperless electronic voting machines.

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Response to Generic Other (Original post)

Tue Jan 31, 2012, 12:43 AM

20. Mr. Palast had better have some big assed body guards who never take their eyes off of him.

 

Please be careful Mr. Palast. We love you!

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