Oil and Gas Pipelines

September 26, 2001


Because of their length, ubiquity, and remoteness, pipelines can be nearly impossible to defend. Natural gas, gasoline, petroleum, and other pipelines can produce catastrophic fires and explosions when they fail. "Environmental" damage aside, these events can kill and injure people, and the casualties can be worse when pipelines are located near populated areas. Safety can be improved by the best siting, design, construction, maintenance, operation, and replacement of pipelines. There have been numerous good articles in recent years about this issue -- many of them suggesting or concluding that state and federal agencies (such as DOT's Office of Pipeline Safety) could do much more to improve pipeline safety. There are also some things pipelines can do to reduce the threats terrorists could present. Despite their vulnerability, pipelines are safer than trucks and other modes of transport.