Ecological services energy technologies and impacts oil and gas pipelines electricity merit badge requirements

Oil and gas pipelines transport or distribute petroleum products from region to region. Like transmission lines, most oil and gas transmission pipelines are located within a right-of-way (ROW) but are typically buried underground. The ROW provides sufficient space to perform maintenance and inspections, as well as a clear zone where encroachments can be monitored and prevented.

Transportation and distribution pipelines may extend tens to thousands of miles and cross state and continental borders. The pipe used for oil and natural gas pipelines can range in size from two inches to 42 inches in diameter. Natural gas distribution pipelines may be constructed from steel or plastic. Oil pipe sections are constructed in lengths between 40 and 80 feet and are designed specifically for their intended location in the pipeline.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) regulates gas transportation in interstate commerce, issues certificates of public convenience and necessity to companies constructing and operating interstate pipelines and storage facilities, oversees the construction and operation of pipeline facilities at U.S. points of entry for the import or export of natural gas and regulates facility abandonment. Once an oil or gas pipeline project becomes operational, safety is regulated, monitored and enforced by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.

Impacts from oil and gas pipelines may occur during construction, operation or maintenance. Typical impacts during construction are related to clearing the ROW, constructing access roads and laying the pipeline. ROWs and other linear developments like transmission lines, roads, seismic lines and trails can increase human access into new areas, displace wildlife from their habitat, act as barriers to wildlife movement and affect migration routes. ROWs may cross different ecosystems and can fragment habitat, lead to the clearing of sensitive vegetation and create pathways for the spread of invasive species. ROW stream crossings can result in significant biological and engineering problems. The scope and magnitude of many pipeline projects, including the number of waterways, the high quality of the fishery resources in many of those waterways and the potential for impacts to fisheries from spills or construction activities, require safeguards to protect these important resources. Depending on location, pipeline ROWs may impact cultural and historical properties, land settlement, tribal peoples and biological diversity.

ROW maintenance often involves the chemical or mechanical control of vegetation within the ROW contributing to the loss of native plant species diversity. Cleared ROWs may be a continued source of sedimentation into waterways. Frequent maintenance can result in soil compaction, alteration of natural landscape topography and drainage patterns, and the disruption of normal groundwater flows. Repair and maintenance activities can also disturb wildlife, result in spills and contribute to continued habitat loss.