Monday’s deadly explosion of the Colonial gasoline pipeline in Shelby County, Alabama reminds us all once again that fossil fuels are inherently dangerous -- period. Whether it’s oil, natural gas or refined products like gasoline, pipelines often leak and sometimes explode, threatening our environment, our clean water and air, and indeed human life.
The tragic explosion on Monday, which killed one and sent many more to the hospital, occurred just a few miles from a massive leak on the same pipeline in September that spilled more than 300,000 gallons of poisonous gasoline into the surrounding environment. This alarming series of recent catastrophes on one small stretch of aging, 50-year old infrastructure inevitably leads to one question: Who is responsible? Who owns and operates this pipeline?
The largest stakeholder in the Colonial gas pipeline is none other than the notorious Koch Brothers. Should we be surprised? Surely not. The Koch brothers are kingpins in the coordinated effort to maintain global dependence on dangerous, antiquated fossil fuels of the past.
In addition to directly owning countless coal, oil and gas interests such as the Colonial pipeline, the Koch Brothers leverage their vast financial wealth to wield immense power in our democracy – whether it’s through court decisions like Citizens United, through corporate-run policy shops like the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), or through industry front groups promoting technologies that harm the environment. By funding research programs at our universities and exerting powerful influence over our media, they’ve come to control debate over important issues affecting our health and our communities.
As questions regarding the safety, security or overall virtue of particular fossil fuel projects arise, it is imperative to shine a light on the corporate players behind each one. One such exposé, our analysis of the tangled web of financial institutions bankrolling the Dakota Access pipeline, was widely disseminated. As long as pipeline projects like these continue to be proposed, or be built, or to fail, our fight against dangerous fossil fuel development and the corporations profiting from it will continue.