As technology continues to improve, construction of important energy infrastructure projects like pipelines only gets safer. This is the case for Horizontal Directional Drilling, the now common method used for installing a pipeline directly into the ground while minimally impacting the local environment. As Bill Godsey, former geologist for the Texas Railroad Commission, notes:
“This is a technique of installing pipe and materials by drilling under existing structure instead of cutting through them with an open-cut, trench. The method is widely considered an industry best-practice, specifically for protecting the integrity of sensitive geographies, like aquifers and high water tables.”
During construction, it’s “not uncommon” for fluid used in normal operations of drills “to escape…and disperse underground.” These are called “inadvertent returns.” While this often causes a knee-jerk reaction, “most builders and regulators alike anticipate and account for fluid migration during drilling,” and “the environmental impact is usually benign.” As Godsey writes:
“Ultimately, HDDs remain the industry standard for protecting environmental resources. A pipeline company should not be overly punished because it sought to employ a more environmentally friendly approach to building a pipeline project.”
Improving and expanding energy infrastructure is the path forward for Pennsylvania. Utilizing HDDs is the most effective and safe way to install pipelines, and requiring drills to stop each time an inadvertent return occurs will hurt the environment that some purport to protect. Godsey properly outlines the safety of HDDs, and demonstrates why it is, and should be, the preferred method of installing pipelines in the ground.