New Safety Initiative Comes Down the Pipe
According to the Department of Transportation (DOT) more than 2.5 million miles of pipeline are responsible for delivering oil and gas across the United States – enough to circle the earth approximately 100 times.
Pipelines are the safest and most cost-effective means to transport the large quantities of natural gas and hazardous liquid products according to the DOT’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA.) Even so, the number of annual pipeline fatalities has increased over the past three years, from nine fatalities in 2008 to 22 this past year – an escalation of 244 percent that hasn’t gone unnoticed in the news.
For example, the recent natural gas pipeline rupture in Allentown, Pennsylvania made headlines as aging pipeline was blamed for the deaths of five people. The Allentown explosion, in a series of recent pipeline-related incidents, has added even more pressure on regulatory bodies to address aging pipeline infrastructure.
The DOT, along with federal, state and local officials, is stepping in to say ‘enough is enough’. Leading the charge, DOT Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood launched a national safety initiative earlier this month to repair and replace aging pipelines.
The DOT’s pipeline pipeline safety action plan will address immediate concerns in pipeline safety, including:
- Ensuring pipeline operators know the age and condition of their pipelines
- Proposing new regulations to strengthen reporting and inspection requirements
- Making information about pipelines and the safety record of pipeline operators easily accessible to the public
As part of his initiative, LaHood has asked pipeline owners and operators to review their systems and accelerate critical repairs and replacements in efforts to mitigate at least one of the three major causes of pipeline failures resulting in oil spills or gas explosions.
PHMSA will also create a new web page with clear, easy to understand information about local pipeline networks. In the meantime, as pipeline legislation ramps up, PHMSA offers pipeline FAQs and recommendations for safe practices on its website.