Tag Archives: natural gas

Freedom Still Exists in My ‘Forever Hometown’

Today, more than ever before, the freedoms celebrated by Americans on Independence Day appear to be at risk. Among the most important are some freedoms I remember growing up with in Enid, Okla., during the ’60s and ’70s.

Enid, Okla., is known as the "Wheat Capitol of the United States."

Enid, Okla., is known as the “Wheat Capitol of the United States” and boast an enormous grain storage capacity.

The people of Enid had the freedom to feed the world.

Because my “forever hometown” in North Central Oklahoma was known as the “Wheat Capitol of the United States,” its residents could have boasted about having some of the tallest buildings in the world if not for the fact that those buildings, known as grain elevators, were lying on their sides. Still, they were proud of those structures and what they represented as the largest inland grain storage center on the planet, visible from miles away to visitors as they made the flat-land approaches to the city via U.S. Highways 64 and 81.

Every year without fail, those grain elevators were filled as a result of hard work and a lot of prayer put in by farmers, aided by caravans of combines and a large labor force of willing-and-able teenagers and others who counted on “The Harvest” for extra income.

Did the fact I grew up watching T-38 "Talon" aircraft -- painted white back then -- flying overhead influence me to become an Air Force officer? Probably.

Did the fact I grew up watching T-37 “Tweet” and T-38 “Talon” aircraft — like the one above, but painted white — flying overhead influence me to become an Air Force officer? Probably.

The people of Enid had the freedom to defend freedom.

When I was a kid, Enid served as home to some of the busiest air space in the Midwest, thanks to Vance AFB, a pilot training base since 1941 that has served as a launching pad for thousands of Air Force pilots and, more recently, Marine Corps and Navy pilots.

As a kid, I can remember going to annual Open House events at the base to see aerobatic wonders executed by members of the U.S. Air Force Aerial Demonstration Squadron (a.k.a., “The Thunderbirds”), the U.S. Navy’s Blue Angels and others in the sky above my head. I also remember watching T-37 “Tweets” and T-38 “Talon” aircraft flying overhead almost daily during the first two decades of my life. In addition to influencing my decision to become an active-duty Air Force officer and serve on three continents, I suspect the presence of the air base might have influenced other Enid boys, including Owen K. Garriott, the first Enidite — yes, that’s what we called ourselves — to fly into space as part of the Skylab 3 mission in 1973.

The people of Enid had the freedom to fuel freedom.

In addition to agriculture and defense, Enid was home to a large number of individuals — including my dad, an independent petroleum geologist — and companies involved in the exploration, production and refining of oil. In fact, I grew up about three miles across town from a facility known as the Champlin Oil Refinery.

Just like the Oklahoma state song says, “the wind comes sweepin’ down the plains” on a regular basis in Enid. On rare occasions, however, the wind blew from the East instead of the West. As a result, it was often accompanied by sulphur-tinted vapors emanating from that oil refinery.

Did the people on the West Side of Enid panic upon smelling the refinery fumes from the East Side? No, they didn’t. In Enid, that vapor wasn’t regarded as “air pollution”; instead, it was respected — albeit in an odd sort of way — as the aroma of jobs, money and economic vitality.

The Enid (Okla.) Kiwanis Club train at Meadowlake Park.

I enjoyed many “stowaway” rides on the Enid (Okla.) Kiwanis Club train at Meadowlake Park.

The people of Enid had the freedom to enjoy freedom.

Even after the refinery was shut down in 1984 and relocated to Corpus Christi, Texas, the “dots” of agriculture, defense and oil remained connected by the “glues” of patriotism, sacrifice and rugged individualism that shaped the community. And nothing said “community” more than the annual Independence Day celebrations at Meadowlake Park.

Each year, tens of thousands of people descended upon the 110-acre city park for the annual Fourth of July fireworks display. For hours before sunset, they would spend time coaxing fish out of the lake, playing baseball and softball games, enjoying picnics and riding rides operated by a local civic club, the Enid Kiwanis Club. Among the best rides at the park was a train.

The “City of Enid Express,” purchased by the club in 1963, includes an engine that’s a replica of the 1863 C. P. Huntington and three open-air passenger cars. Most incredibly, the train was manned by volunteers and operated without any federal government support. The train carries an average of 15,000 passengers a year over 1.2 miles of track, through a tunnel, and over two bridges.

Thanks to online resources, such as the The Enid News & Eagle and Enid Buzz, and my Facebook friends in Enid, I’m able to keep up with news from my forever hometown and have been assured of several things that give me hope as I enjoy the Fourth of July with my family in the St. Louis area:

~ The sound of freedom still roars loudly in Enid, thanks to the people at Vance AFB;

~ The combines are gonna run in the fields this summer;

~ Oil and natural gas wells are still being drilled;

~ Kids are still climbing aboard that slow-moving train when the conductor can’t see them in his side-view mirror; and

~ Weather and fire danger permitting, the South side of the park is gonna shut down Monday evening so that the annual fireworks display can be enjoyed one more time by the good people of Enid.

Editor’s Note: E-N-I-D is the answer to any crossword puzzle clue asking for the name of a four-letter town in Oklahoma.

For links to other articles of interest as well as photos and commentary, join me on Facebook and Twitter.  Please show your support by buying my books and encouraging your friends and loved ones to do the same.  To learn how to order signed copies, click here. Thanks in advance!

Click on image above to order Bob's books.

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Bob McCarty’s Weekly Recap: Feb. 1-7

In addition to spending a lot of time working on my first screenplay, I adopted a one-post-per-day approach to things during the first week of February 2015 at BobMcCarty.com.

INELIGIBLE: Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), Gov. Bobby Jindal (R-LA), Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA).

INELIGIBLE? Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), Gov. Bobby Jindal (R-LA), Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA). Click image above to read about this topic.

On the same day I published my last weekly recap, I shared a guest piece written by Paul R. Hollrah, a resident of Oklahoma who writes from the perspective of a veteran conservative politico who served two terms as a member of the Electoral College, the piece makes some people angry. See if it makes you angry. Read Is Writer ‘Beating Dead Horse’ or Adhering to Constitution?

Markers are mandatory after passage of the Pipeline Safety Improvement Act of 2002.

Click image above to read my piece about underground pipeline dangers.

After reading news about a ruptured natural gas pipeline forcing the evacuation of area residents near Bowling Green, Mo., I decided to share anew a story I had written and published Sept. 13, 2010, about one Missouri family’s experience with underground pipelines running through their backyard. Read the piece I published Feb. 1 under the headline, Bowling Green Pipeline Rupture Stirs Backyard Fears.

Barely one year ago, six members of Congress called for Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr. to resign after he lied to Congress about the National Security Agency’s data collection programs. On Feb. 1, I shared an update. Read it under the headline, Intel Chief Remains in Post One Year After Call for His Ouster.

Click image above to order a copy of The Clapper Memo.

Click image above to order a copy of The Clapper Memo.

After reading multiple articles about the 80th anniversary of the first occasion on which the polygraph was used to help bring about a conviction in a U.S. court, I felt compelled to share some unique observations from my perspective as author of The Clapper Memo, a book in which I share findings from my exhaustive four-year investigation of credibility assessment technologies. Read my take on the polygraph in a Feb. 3 piece published under the headline, Polygraph Makes Headlines for Age, Not Reliability.

After anchor Brian Williams used his NBC Nightly News platform to offer what his network would later describe as “clarification” about an incident that had allegedly taken place more than a decade earlier, I shared details of a personal experience I had with Williams at the Air Force base where I was stationed in the spring of 1991. Read the humorous details in my Feb. 5 piece, NBC Anchor ‘Clarifies’ Fact He’s Been Lying for 12 Years.

U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Christopher Boitz

Click on image above to read about my personal experience with Brian Williams.

When I asked a former Army Green Beret how many kills he had recorded as an American sniper during three tours of duty in Iraq, he used a lot of words to explain how such numbers can be hard to tally but never gave me an actual number. Find out what he did tell me in my Feb. 5 piece, Sniper: ‘I believed I had the ability to change the playing field’.

Former Army Green Beret Sgt. 1st Class Kelly A. Stewart in Iraq.

Click on image above to read about an American sniper whose story turned out different than Chris Kyle.

Though a Department of Defense puff piece focused on the Capitol Hill testimony Thursday of a high-ranking DoD official and the question of whether or not the detention facility at Guantánamo Bay should be closed, I focused on GITMO-focused statements made about the facility and detainees held there by first-term Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) in a piece published Feb. 7. Read it: Arkansas’ Freshman Senator Shreds Obama Administration False Narrative on Guantanamo Bay Detention Facility.

The list of other items I shared on my Facebook page this week includes a photo taken by Brian Williams when he became the first man to walk on the moon July 21, 1969, and a piece in which retired Army Maj. Gen. Paul Vallely is quoted as calling for NBC’s Williams to be canned. Yes, he’s the same Army general who endorsed my book, The Clapper Memo.

As I say every week, thanks for stopping by!

For links to other articles of interest as well as photos and commentary, join me on Facebook and Twitter.  Please show your support by buying my books and encouraging your friends and loved ones to do the same.  To learn how to order signed copies, click here. Thanks in advance!

Click on image above to order Bob's books.

Click on image above to order Bob’s books.

Bowling Green Pipeline Rupture Stirs Backyard Fears

EDITOR’S NOTE: After reading recent news about a ruptured natural gas pipeline forcing the evacuation of area residents near Bowling Green, Mo., I decided to share anew a story I wrote and published Sept. 13, 2010, about one Missouri family’s experience with underground pipelines running through their backyard. The family still lives in the home described in the story below, modified only slightly from the original version.

Markers are mandatory after passage of the Pipeline Safety Improvement Act of 2002.

Markers are mandatory after passage of the Pipeline Safety Improvement Act of 2002.

Though natural gas pipeline explosions like the one that leveled a neighborhood and left several people dead in San Bruno, Calif., Sept. 9, 2010, are rare, having petroleum product and natural gas pipelines running through her yard still makes Shelley Miller of St. Peters, Mo., nervous and scared.

“I started shaking from the inside out,” said Miller, then 47, describing how she felt upon watching initial news reports about the blast.  “The first thing I thought was, ‘That could be us.’”

When Miller says “us,” she’s not just talking about members of her immediate family.  Instead, she’s referring to more than 75 of her neighbors who have pipelines running through their properties in the sprawling Brookmount Estates subdivision in the St. Charles County community of 58,000 located a few miles west of St. Louis.

Miller and her husband Ray bought their modest three-bedroom home in the winter of 1993 and moved into it in January 1994.  At the time, they had one small child and no idea that any pipelines were running through their backyard.  It was during the fall of 1995 that they learned they had a fuel pipeline running a few feet below the surface of their backyard.

When Shelley Miller moved into her home in 1994, pipeline markers were not required.

When Shelley Miller moved into her home in 1994, pipeline markers were not required.

During an interview at her home less than 24 hours after the California blast, Miller recalled how she found out about the existence of that then-unmarked pipeline.

“We found out that Williams Brothers pipeline had a pipeline back here,” she said, explaining that the company had sent letters to owners of approximately 75 other homes in the subdivision to notify them that the company would be conducting tests of a 9.5-inch natural gas pipeline.  Soon after the testing, company workers put a marker on Miller’s fence to indicate the location of the pipeline — less than 25 feet from the rear wall of her home.

“But I didn’t think too much about it,” she said, adding, “It’s a residential neighborhood in a populated city.”

Her fears increased during the fall of 2003 after a man from Explorer Pipeline Co. of Tulsa, Okla., came to her home.

The man, Miller explained, asked if he could see her backyard to get an idea of where the trees were.  His company was going to be cutting down and/or trimming trees to make the easement more visible from the air for flyover-inspection purposes per guidelines of the Pipeline Safety Improvement Act of 2002.  That legislation stemmed, in part, from security concerns after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

“I brought him into the backyard, thinking that was the same pipeline company that I already knew was here,” Miller said.  Before the man’s visit ended, she learned Explorer owned a different pipeline in her yard, this one 24 inches in diameter and carrying gasoline, diesel and jet fuel at a flow rate of more than 14,000 gallons per minute at 825 psi.  Soon after the visit, she also learned she had two more pipelines — both owned by Conoco Oil Company — adjacent her yard that had been in the ground since 1931, bringing to four the total number of fuel pipelines behind her home.*

After receiving notices from Explorer about the tree-trimming efforts, neighbors along the pipeline begin to talk and ask each other questions, prompting Miller and a friend to go door to door to take the pulse of the neighborhood.  In July 2004, they began airing their concerns during meetings of the City of St. Peters Board of Aldermen.  And they got results.

“They did take action and listen,” Miller said, noting that board members made some moves to improve the safety of the pipelines in the city.  For instance:

• One new ordnance stipulates a minimum 25-feet barrier be maintained between newly-constructed housing and existing gas and/or hazardous liquid pipelines;

• A second ordnance requires the city be notified of any excavation near fuel or hazardous liquids pipelines; and

• A third requires disclosures be made in connection with real estate transactions involving property located along such pipelines.

While the board members’ actions have done much to assist future and prospective homeowners along the pipeline and throughout the city, Miller thinks more needs to be done to help people who purchased property near the pipelines in the past without being informed about the pipeline’s existence.  After all, it was the actions of city officials in 1971 that lead to the current situation, according to Miller.

Miller has collected stacks of documents while educating herself on the pipeline issue.

Miller has collected stacks of documents while educating herself on the pipeline issue.

“In 1971, Charlie Adams was a big developer in St. Charles County,” Miller explained.  “It turns out that Charlie Adams was not only the developer, but Charlie Adams was also the chairman of St. Peters’ planning and zoning (commission) at the time.”  Though city records fail to reflect any formal approval of the Brookmount Estates development plan by members of the commission after it was presented for consideration Nov. 10, 1971, the fact that the subdivision stands today indicates the plan received no less than tacit approval of the city.

Also, it’s worth pointing out that documents obtained by Miller show Adams, through his company R.G.S. Construction, also signed a right-of-way agreement with Explorer Aug. 6, 1971, nearly three months before the commission meeting.**  That agreement made it possible for Explorer to run the pipeline through the subdivision before homes were built there.

Though Miller doesn’t think any laws were violated when development plans for Brookmount Estates made it through the city’s planning and zoning commission, she said she believes bad moral decisions were made and that city officials should right the wrong that happened almost 40 years ago.

“Their predecessors were responsible and, just as a president assumes the previous president’s mess,” she said, “the city aldermen do the same.”

Asked what she would like to see happen in St. Peters in the wake of the California disaster, Miller didn’t mince words.

“I would like to see every homeowner walking into that city hall together and saying, “This is your mistake, you allowed this to happen, you permitted it to happen and, after having seen what happened (in San Bruno), we don’t want any part of it.  We want out.”

Miller points to a spot on a map where four pipelines converge in St. Charles County, Mo.

Miller points to a spot on a map where four pipelines converge in St. Charles County, Mo.

Miller noted that she’s aware of at least three other subdivisions in St. Peters are dissected by pipelines.  According to the National Pipeline Mapping System, at least a dozen pipeline companies operate in St. Charles County, and many of those pipelines carry product from the Wood River Refinery in Roxana, Ill., 40 miles to St. Peters and points west.  That means the issue of pipeline safety isn’t limited to St. Peters, and it isn’t going to go away soon.

Editor’s Notes: *Originally installed to carry crude oil, gasoline, diesel and jet fuel, the 9.5-inch natural gas line in Miller’s backyard is no longer owned by Williams Brothers.  Now, it is owned by Southern Star Central Gas Pipeline, Inc., of Owensboro, Ky.  **I attempted to locate Adams for comment.  Along the way, I was told by more than one source — but could not confirm — that he had passed away.  According to the Missouri Secretary of State’s web site, his company ceased operations in 1983.

For links to other articles of interest as well as photos and commentary, join me on Facebook and Twitter.  Please show your support by buying my books and encouraging your friends and loved ones to do the same.  To learn how to order signed copies, click here. Thanks in advance!

Click on image above to order Bob's books.

Click on image above to order Bob’s books.