It’s Time To Get The Facts Straight On Horizontal Directional Drilling

Pipeline opponents once again had an opportunity to share their opposition to increased pipeline infrastructure at a joint senate hearing in Harrisburg, PA on Tuesday. The hearing, held by the state senate Environmental Resources and Energy and the Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure committees, listened to ideological fringe groups for two hours about the lack of safety involved in pipeline construction. Consistent with recent actions by these opponents, a great deal of misinformation was shared.

The most egregious piece of information being inaccurately and continuously shared is that Horizontal Direction Drilling (HDD) is not a tested construction practice. In fact, as trained geologist and energy infrastructure expert, Bill Godsey says, HDD is an industry best practice:

“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.”

Drilling mud or clay is used to help lubricate and cool the drill so it does not overheat. But the mud is not harmful, it is simply a mixture of water and non-toxic bentonite clay that has no harmful environmental impact. In fact, bentonite is approved by the FDA and a common component of many household items such as lipstick and sunscreen.

Throughout the construction process fluids can escape, what’s known as an “inadvertent return.” The process, though not “uncommon,” usually does not pose any environmental hazards. Wide-spread myths have caused panic over fluids escaping, resulting in construction halts that cost time, money, and actually could increase the risk of an environmental disruption.

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.”

HDDs are the best practice for installing pipelines. The total disregard for facts must not keep Pennsylvania from developing needed energy infrastructure.