A Phone Call from the Associated Press

Shari Dunn-Norman
Yesterday, late afternoon, my telephone rang and the caller ID revealed it was the Associated Press.  Since I am a petroleum engineer I rather suspected it would be another call related to the BP situation in the Gulf of Mexico. 

To my surprise, the AP reporter who rang me was inquiring about the Keystone Pipeline.  She wanted to know if allowing the pipeline to operate up to 80% rather than 72% would be dangerous.  I explained that pipelines are designed with safety factors (materials are selected with large safety factors), and that as long as the operating pressure didn't exceed burst pressure everything would be fine.  She seemed dissatisfied with my answer, inquiring further whether pipeline design specifications had changed greatly in the past 40 years.  Again, I calmly assured her that engineers follow ASTM and other design standards and that those had been rock solid for many years.   Her final question, and the point of political revelation for me, was when she asked if it was standard procedure for companies to "withhold" their emergency procedures from the public.  At this point, I told her that I have no knowledge of those company procedures, and she hung up without even taking my information. 

Clearly, I didn't give her the answers she sought!

Afterward, my curiosity led to a search revealing the likely basis of her call.  On July 7th Senator Waxman made a public statement regarding the Keystone Pipeline, citing it as an environmental risk:

What the AP did yesterday is yet another example of how low journalism has sunk in the United States.  The AP journalist seems to be dialing around to engineering experts hoping to get the answer they want to support a political position determined to stop fossil fuel use in the United States. 
Yesterday, late afternoon, my telephone rang and the caller ID revealed it was the Associated Press.  Since I am a petroleum engineer I rather suspected it would be another call related to the BP situation in the Gulf of Mexico. 

To my surprise, the AP reporter who rang me was inquiring about the Keystone Pipeline.  She wanted to know if allowing the pipeline to operate up to 80% rather than 72% would be dangerous.  I explained that pipelines are designed with safety factors (materials are selected with large safety factors), and that as long as the operating pressure didn't exceed burst pressure everything would be fine.  She seemed dissatisfied with my answer, inquiring further whether pipeline design specifications had changed greatly in the past 40 years.  Again, I calmly assured her that engineers follow ASTM and other design standards and that those had been rock solid for many years.   Her final question, and the point of political revelation for me, was when she asked if it was standard procedure for companies to "withhold" their emergency procedures from the public.  At this point, I told her that I have no knowledge of those company procedures, and she hung up without even taking my information. 

Clearly, I didn't give her the answers she sought!

Afterward, my curiosity led to a search revealing the likely basis of her call.  On July 7th Senator Waxman made a public statement regarding the Keystone Pipeline, citing it as an environmental risk:

What the AP did yesterday is yet another example of how low journalism has sunk in the United States.  The AP journalist seems to be dialing around to engineering experts hoping to get the answer they want to support a political position determined to stop fossil fuel use in the United States.