Energy Transfer and Sunoco Pipelines Have Leaked Every 11 Days on Average, For 16 Years

By Lauren Reid, online editor for Greenpeace USA

Over a 16-year period, 3.6 million gallons of hazardous liquid spilled from pipelines owned by Energy Transfer Partners (ETP), its subsidiaries including Sunoco, and joint ventures, according to a new report by Greenpeace USA and Waterkeeper Alliance. The findings illustrate the grave threat those spills pose to human health and water resources throughout the U.S.

As millions of miles of pipelines wind their way across North America, oil spills, natural gas leaks, and other hazardous pipeline incidents have become a dangerous and unavoidable consequence of fossil fuel distribution. Pipelines now run through countless regions — near aquifers and waterways — and as spills occur, they’ve caused immense damage to the land and water resources that communities depend on.

ETP and its complex network of subsidiaries and joint ventures, owns one of the nation’s largest networks of natural gas, crude oil, and petroleum products pipelines.

Drilling fluid spilled into streams and wetlands from the Rover pipeline in Ohio, one of the many operations run by Energy Transfer Partners (ETP).

Drilling fluid spilled into streams and wetlands from the Rover pipeline in Ohio, one of the many operations run by Energy Transfer Partners (ETP).

Analysis of public data collected from the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) shows that ETP and its network has caused 527 incidents from 2002 to the end of 2017, spilling 87,000 barrels (or 3.6 million gallons) of hazardous liquids, while producing an estimated $115 million in property damage.

A crucial takeaway from this analysis is that despite industry rhetoric to the contrary, there is no failsafe way to transport fossil fuels. Industry safety initiatives — along with understaffed regulatory agencies  — have shown that fossil fuel companies are unable to eliminate the risk of spills, which remain an inescapable consequence of oil and gas activity.

It is not a matter of if a pipeline will spill but when. What this underscores is the magnitude of problems communities face when they live in the path of a pipeline — and how important it is that we move towards a renewable energy future.

This report has received widespread support from environmental groups across the U.S., including The Standing Rock Community Development Corporation: “As an organization who is working to protect and empower Standing Rock people, we feel this information should be considered by all parties affected, especially those key stakeholders who have power to end the harmful and neglectful practices Energy Transfer Partners and Sunoco Corporations represent #MniWichoni.”

Below is a summary of our findings, and you can access the full report here.

  • From 2002 to the end of 2017, ETP, its subsidiaries including Sunoco, and joint ventures reported 527 hazardous liquids pipeline incidents to federal regulators — approximately one incident from existing facilities every eleven days.
  • Those incidents, reported by the Pipeline Hazardous Material Safety Administration (PHMSA), released a total of 87,273 barrels (3.6 million gallons, or about five-and-a-half Olympic-sized swimming pools) of hazardous liquids, including 66,515 barrels (2.8 million gallons) of crude oil.
  • In addition, state regulatory agencies have documented spills totaling at least 2.4 million gallons of drilling fluids, sediment and industrial waste during the construction of just two ETP pipelines in Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.
  • Crude oil spills made up 408 of the PHMSA incidents, along with 92 refined petroleum product spills and 27 highly-volatile liquid (HVL), flammable or toxic spills.
  • Of the hazardous liquid spills from existing facilities, 101 incidents were of 50 barrels or more (2100 gallons, a volume which is considered “significant” by the federal regulator).
  • 67 of the hazardous liquid incidents were reported to have contaminated water, of which 18 incidents contaminated groundwater.

Lauren Reid is the online editor for Greenpeace USA. She first volunteered with Greenpeace on the Rainbow Warrior in 2015, for a campaign against overfishing and human rights abuses observed at sea. Lauren is based in New Orleans, LA.


Leo C
Leo Custer26 days ago

Thank you for sharing!

Shirley S
Shirley S29 days ago


Amanda M
Amanda McConnell29 days ago

thanks for sharing

Janis K
Janis K29 days ago

Thanks for sharing.

Victoria P
Victoria P29 days ago


Arlene C
Arlene C29 days ago


ANA MARIJA Rabout a month ago

One of many arguments that I'm listening for months (from so called "people who know and understand better than we "activists in front of monitor") is that nobody is willing to give up from electricity so we have to stop our unrealistic whining. "We need also sacrifise something"...

Janis K
Janis Kabout a month ago

All because of GREED!

Callie R
Callie Rabout a month ago