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  Public Safety
 

Rash of Placitas burglaries

—Sgt. Allen Mills, SCSO
A burglary of a home in the Placitas Trails area was reported to the Sandoval County Sheriff’s Office at around 3:40 p.m. on May 8. Three individuals, possibly all male, were observed in a dark color SUV. The subjects forced the front door open and took various items from inside the home including a television. This burglary occurred in a very short time frame, and the home had an audible alarm.

A burglary of a home in the Desert Mountain Area was reported on May 15 at around 5:40 p.m. The subjects forced the front door open and were scared off by the owner, who did not answer the door when they knocked. Another burglary was reported on May 14 on Arroyo Venada. Various items from inside the home were stolen.

A neighbor on Arroyo Venada reported a young Hispanic male had knocked on her door in the early afternoon hours asking for yard work. The subject gave a fictitious phone number to the resident and left in a black or dark color SUV.

Deputies working the Placitas area are keenly aware of the recent rash of burglaries and are concentrating on the issue. Contact the Sheriff’s Office if you see something suspicious in your neighborhood. We are working diligently to put an end to these burglaries. In case of an emergency, notify 911. For a non-emergency, call 891-7226.


Is it safe?

—Chris Frye, Las Placitas Association

Enterprise Products Partners of Houston, Texas, wants to increase the flow in its Natural Gas Liquids (NGL) pipeline that runs through Placitas, to a capacity of ten million barrels per month. This 233-mile-long pipeline connects natural gas fields in Colorado and the Farmington area with refineries in west Texas, and carries NGL, a heady brew of propane, butane, and liquid petroleum products, at pressures of well over one thousand pounds per square inch.

You might have noticed the tall yellow plastic signs that mark the location of this buried pipeline along its route through Placitas. The pipeline corridor runs eastward under I-25 between the Algodones and Placitas exits, across the 3,100-acre BLM “Buffalo” parcel, through the Placitas Open Space to Las Huertas Creek, where it zig-zags up the main channel for thousands of feet, crossing under Camino de las Huertas and Rosa Castilla several times, up through Diamond Tail, and then on to toward Texas.

Much of the pipeline expansion project will require the burial of new pipes, but no new construction is planned for the Placitas area. The local pipeline (actually two parallel 16-inch pipes) would experience an increase in pressure necessary for the higher flow rate.

Since this three hundred million dollar pipeline upgrade is a Federal project, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is required to complete an Environmental Assessment to permit the project to proceed. BLM’s draft environmental document does a nice job analyzing the effects on the usual things like wildlife, archaeological resources, and weeds, but completely ignores public safety.

BLM has typically excluded safety considerations from their environmental permitting process, although Federal laws require them to do so. Last month, a Federal judge in California ordered BLM to include human safety aspects of projects in their environmental permitting process. Based on that court order, the Las Placitas Association (LPA) and the Eastern Sandoval Citizens Association (ES-CA) have formally challenged BLM’s Environmental Assessment for this pipeline project, since their Environmental Assessment does not include any public safety aspects.

Now, don’t get us wrong; this pipeline upgrade would help reduce our country’s reliance on foreign oil, and lower the cost of propane, butane, and even gasoline, and so would be beneficial, if it’s done safely. A big “if,” as it turns out. Here’s the wrinkle: the Feds have refused to provide LPA and ES-CA a single scrap of safety information about this pipeline over its decades of operation, despite repeated letters and even a formal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for safety records.

This might lead a reasonable Placitan to wonder what the Feds are trying to hide. Faulty pipeline engineering? Poor safety practices? Federal safety officials not doing their jobs? Many residents here recall the summer flood of 2006, which scoured out and exposed the pipelines in Las Huertas Creek, something that is never supposed to happen to a hazardous material pipeline. This event is proof of a pipeline safety failure that could not be hidden. Was the pipeline properly armored after the accident to prevent another excavation? LPA and ES-CA have repeatedly asked the Federal agencies this and other questions—only to be met with stony silence.

If this pipeline were carrying something like water or molasses, we wouldn’t be nearly so concerned. But it’s not. It’s carrying millions of gallons of explosive and toxic chemicals, right beneath our feet. Dozens of similar pipelines have ruptured and exploded over the past twenty years, causing deaths, hundreds of injuries, wildfires, hundreds of millions of dollars in environmental and property damage, and contamination of groundwater. All of these pipelines were subject to Federal safety regulations, but every one of the failures were due to the operator not complying with these safety rules. So, rules alone are not enough—only carrying out those safety regulations makes pipelines safer.

To keep abreast of the latest developments in this pipeline arm-wrestling match, go to the Las Placitas Association’s website at www.lasplacitas.org/pipeline. The pipeline issue will also be discussed at ES-CA’s general meeting on June 8 from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m. at the Placitas Community Center.

 
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