Below is a sampling of our exhaustive gas pipeline research.
1985 - 2000 Pipeline Accident Reports as reported by the National Transportation and Safety Board
The following excerpts are by no means a complete synopsis of the congressional hearings. The quotes and summaries are meant to serve as points of interest to the readers and to present the general direction of the hearings. References to page numbers and paragraphs refer to the print versions of the hearings that can hopefully be obtained at public libraries or campus libraries.
Re-authorization of the natural gas pipeline safety act and the hazardous liquid pipeline safety act. Hearing before the Subcommittee on Energy and Power of the Committee on Commerce House of Representatives. One Hundred Sixth Congress, First Session. February 3, 1999. Serial No. 106-11
"There is an enormous potential for the loss of human life, and also, for harm to the environment, and we cannot afford to become complacent about pipeline safety." - Hon. Joe Barton, Chairman of the subcommittee on energy and power. Page 2, paragraph 5.
"In 1997 and 1998, there were over 200 hazardous liquid pipeline incidents resulting in over $40 million in property damage and approximately 95 natural gas pipeline incidents...resulting in $20 million in property damage. Ten injuries and one fatality occurred from these accidents." - Frank Pallone Jr., a Representative in Congress from the state of New Jersey. Page 4, paragraph 10.
"Of all the Department of Transportation (DOT) administrations, the Office of Pipeline Safety (OPS) has the worst acceptance rate of safety board recommendations." - ad lib., Page 7, paragraph 1.
"The potential exists for thousands more deaths and far greater damage to natural resources and property to occur." ad lib., Page 7, paragraph 12.
"...the [DOT] has chosen to ignore a number of proposed safety improvements recommended by the National Transportation Safety Board over the years as a response to specific accidents that have taken place at U.S. Pipelines." - Edward J. Markey from Massachusetts. Page 12, paragraph 5.
"The Pipeline Safety Act of 1992 gave OPS the mandate to develop pipeline standards that protect the environment protection regulations to date. There simply is no excuse for OPS's complete failure to meet congressional deadlines for environmental protection standards." - Lois Epstein, licensed engineer with the Environmental Defense Fund in Washington D.C. Page 59, paragraph 13.
"Additionally, OPS has an extremely poor record of enforcing existing and developing new safety requirements." ad lib., Page 59, paragraph 14.
A point of interest is that the OPS is funded by the pipeline companies, and due to the OPS' small staff, accidents are punished only when the pipeline companies report on themselves or are too big to miss.
The Bellingham, Washington, Hazardous Liquid Pipeline Incident Hearing before the Subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings, Hazardous Materials and Pipeline Transportation of the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure House of Representatives. One hundred sixth congress, first session. October 27, 1999.
As the title states, this hearing concerns the Bellingham, Washington tragedy where a liquid natural gas transmission line leaked and erupted - killing three local youth.
According to the testimony of Alan Beshore, Investigator-In-Charge of Office of Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety, the Bellingham pipeline rupture occurred at 3:30pm. One of the pumping computers had gone down earlier and the backup went down a few minutes after the rupture and left a 14 minute gap until another computer could be brought on. A half hour later the valves opened up and the pumps began pumping more gas. It wasn't until 15 or 17 minutes later that they first received a leak alert from the computer. The ignition occurred about 30 minutes later. It was at least an hour before the utility had any knowledge that there was a leak. Page 34, paragraph 1-3.
"...there is a misperception out there that leak detection will capture leaks. What it does is capture certain types of leaks. The bigger the leak, the better the chance [for detection]." - Richard Kuprewicz, Engineer, City of Bellingham.
One way of looking for pipe leaks and defects is to perform a hydrostatic test that shoots water through the pipe at high psi. Unfortunately, the high psi of this test often weakens the pipe. Another way is to use a "smart pig." A smart pig is a machine that travels with the flow inside a pipe to search for anomalies. A more detailed description can be found below.
"...Smart pigs have real limitations. They are designed to find metallurgical defects, casting defects, perhaps third-party-caused defects, but they are not designed nor do they do a good job of finding seam or weld defects...the smart pigs have a glaring absence of ability to find these kinds of defects." - Testimony of Hon. Jay Inslee, a Representative in Congress from Washington State. Page 11 & 12, paragraph 8 and 1.
"...all of the lines in the United States are not pigable. And there is no requirement that all the lines in the United States be pigable." - James Hall, Chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board. Page 33, paragraph 1.
David A. Bricklin, Esq of Bricklin & Gendler, LLP testified to Congress that even if a pig finds an anomaly in a pipe, the pipeline company doesn't go inspect it. They run it through a cost analysis to see how much it would cost to fix it, then they look at how risky the anomaly is. If it's very risky then they inspect it. According to Mr. Bricklin, there are a vast number of these anomalies, but it's too expensive to inspect every one. Mr. Bricklin testified that there were three anomalies around the portion of the pipeline that burst in Bellingham.
Mr. Bricklin went on to testify, "There are no effective Federal regulations dealing with systems to prohibit overpressurization of the pipeline, so-called fail-safe systems," and "...there are no effective Federal regulations that generally require valves to stop large amounts of product being released from a pipeline if there is a leak or a rupture." Page 58, paragraphs 3 and 4.
Reauthorization of the Natural Gas Pipeline Safety Act and the Hazardous Liquid Pipeline Safety Act. Hearing before the Subcommittee on Energy and Air Quality of the Committee on Energy and Commerce, House of Representatives. One hundred seventh congress, second session. March 19, 2002.
The following excerpts were taken from the online document so no page or paragraphs are available. We apologize for this inconvenience.
The following testimony is by Democratic Congressman John D. Dingell - MI.
"Concerned that the combination of a weak law and an absence of regulation are also recipes for a disaster. Just over 3 years ago, I asked the General Accounting Office to investigate the effectiveness of both OPS and the 1996 law.
"GAO's May 2000 report revealed an agency that places a disturbing amounts of faith in the industry that is supposed to regulate it, and it is either unable or unwilling to carry out the responsibilities that it has under the law."
The report found the following six things:
"OPS had almost eliminated the use of fines, reducing the use of monetary penalties by more than 90 percent between 1990 and 1998."
"...at the same time that OPS stopped fining violators, major pipeline accidents increased by approximately 4 percent annually, and killing 226 people, and injuring over 1,030 others, and resulting in about $700 million in property damage.
"...OPS was not complying with the law, and it failed to implement nearly half of the 49 requirements mandated by Congress since 1988 to improve the safety of pipelines.
"...OPS repeatedly ignored recommendations by [the National Transportation Safety Board]."
"...OPS information on pipeline accidents is extremely limited and ill-managed.
"...OPS was moving ahead with a risk-based approach to safety regulation, despite a complete lack of quantifiable evidence to justify such a change."
The following is an excerpt from the prepared statement of Robert Chipkevich, Director, Office of Railroad, Pipeline, and Hazardous Materials Investigations, National Transportation Safety Board.
"We are aware that OPS is funding research in the following areas:
Improved pipeline location technologies.
Improved inspection technologies to find pipe defects.
Real time monitoring to detect mechanical damage and leaks.
Improved trenchless technologies to avoid potential damage to underground facilities.
Technologies to increase the security of pipelines."
The following is an excerpt from the prepared statement of Peter Guerrero, Director, Physical Infrastructure, U.S. General Accounting Office.
"OPS has made progress in responding to recommendations from the Safety Board and statutory requirements, but still has not implemented some significant recommendations and requirements. In May 2000, we reported that OPS had the lowest rate of any transportation agency in responding to recommendations from the Safety Board and had not completed 22 out of 49 statutory requirements imposed since 1988. OPS has since improved its responsiveness to the Safety Board's recommendations and taken action on eight statutory requirements. However, some recommendations and requirements dealing with issues that are critical for pipeline safety--such as requiring pipeline operators to periodically inspect their pipelines--are more than a decade old and OPS still has not implemented them. According to OPS officials, the agency's ongoing initiatives should fulfill the majority of the open recommendations and requirements before the end of 2002."
Editor's Note: Besides the concern for safety regulations, safety from terrorist attacks was also a chief concern in the hearing. It was such a concern that the word "terrorist" occurred forty times throughout the document as the various speakers voiced their concern over the safety of this vast infrastructure.