Report Documents Deadly Accidents, Toxic Spills, Corruption at Billionaire Rich Kinder’s Energy Firm

Document Released as Kinder Morgan Expands Coal Export Terminals in Texas, Louisiana


HOUSTON, Texas – A new Sightline Institute report on billionaire Rich Kinder’s coal- and oil- shipping giant documents a 15-year record of pipeline explosions, illegal toxic spills, violation of clean air and water laws, and attempted cover-ups that have included bribes and intimidation.

The investigation points out that as Kinder Morgan Energy Partners continues to rack up abuses, the firm is working to quintuple its coal export capacity through the Gulf Coast, where existing Kinder Morgan terminals leave coal and petcoke in towering uncovered piles that generated heavy airborne pollution. Elsewhere in the country, companies that leave petcoke in uncovered piles have been sued, fined tens of thousands of dollars and forced to relocate.

“Kinder Morgan’s expansion of its coal export terminals in Louisiana and Texas is dangerous for the communities and environment around them,” said Eric de Place, policy director for Sightline Institute, a prominent think tank that researches energy, economic and environmental policy. “This is a company with an egregious environmental record and a pattern of trying to intimidate people who expose their abuses. It’s not the kind of company people want in their backyards.”

Adrian Shelley, executive director of Air Alliance Houston, said air monitoring conducted by his organization indicates that Marwood, a community north of Kinder Morgan’s two Ship Channel terminals, is contaminated with petcoke pollution. “Uncovered coal and petcoke is a public health threat, and when it’s stored in other states there is an uproar,” he said.”In Chicago, Mayor Rahm Emanuel helped drive a company out of the city because it was storing petcoke in uncovered piles. Why should Texas be treated differently?”

The Sightline investigation follows release of a report by the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA), which demonstrated that with international demand for U.S. coal rapidly declining, the country already has more coal export terminals than it can use. During the peak year for U.S. coal exports – 2012 – Gulf Coast coal export terminals still operated at only 66 percent of capacity, making expansion of coal export terminals an economically pointless exercise, the report said.

The Sightline Institute report documents dozens of cases of Kinder Morgan eruptions, spills, EPA fines, and corruption in the United States and in Canada:

  • In Houston, Kinder Morgan’s terminal operators leave coal and petcoke, a highly toxic byproduct of oil refining, piled several stories high on its properties. The company’s petcoke operations are so dirty that even the firm’s promotional literature shows plumes of black dust blowing off its equipment.
  • In Louisiana, Kinder Morgan’s terminal spills coal directly into the Mississippi River and nearby wetlands. The pollution is so heavy that satellite photos show coal-polluted water spreading from the facility in black plumes. The same site generates so much wind-blown coal dust that nearby residents won a class action lawsuit because their homes and belongings are so often covered in coal dust.
  • Kinder Morgan has been fined numerous times by the US government for stealing coal from customers’ stockpiles, lying to air pollution regulators, illegally mixing hazardous waste into gasoline, and many other crimes.
  • Kinder Morgan’s pipelines are plagued by leaks and explosions, including two large and dangerous spills in residential neighborhoods in Canada. One hedge fund analyst has accused the firm of “starving” its pipelines of maintenance spending.
  • Kinder Morgan was convicted on six felony counts after one of its pipelines in California exploded, killing five workers.
  • In South Carolina, coal dust from Kinder Morgan’s terminal contaminates the bay’s oysters, pilings, and boats. Locals have videotaped the company washing coal directly into sensitive waterways.
  • In Oregon, Kinder Morgan officials bribed a ship captain to illegally dump contaminated material at sea, and the firm’s operations have repeatedly polluted the Willamette River.
  • The full report is available at

Clean Gulf Commerce Coalition, working to stop expansion of coal exports and advance renewable energy, including Air Alliance Houston, Gulf Restoration Network (GRN), Louisiana Environmental Action Network (LEAN), Public Citizen, Sierra Club and SouthWings.