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.
- The Senate on Feb. 8, 2001 passed a pipeline safety bill (S 235), but it is stalled in the House, where some Democrats favor a tougher bill (HR 144). Congressional Research Service: "Report for Congress RS20640: Pipeline Safety: Federal Program and Reauthorization Issues".
- DOT Office of Pipeline Safety: 202-366-4595. List of information contacts. List of OPS Regional Offices. Website includes statistics and downloadable database on pipelines and safety incidents.
- Contact your state public service commission, utility regulatory body, etc. which regulates pipelines.
- Municipal Research & Services Center: Pipeline Safety Information for Local Governments.
- General Accounting Office: The Office of Pipeline Safety Is Changing How It Oversees the Pipeline Industry, GAO/RCED-00-128.
- Association of Oil Pipe Lines: Raymond Paul, 202-408-7970. Sept. 18, 2001, release.
- Cook Inlet Keeper: Lois N. Epstein, P.E., Senior Engineer, Oil and Gas Industry Specialist, 907 276-4244, x119.
- National Transportation Safety Board (Office of Pipeline & Hazardous Materials Safety): NTSB Public Affairs Office, 202-314-6100.
- American Society of Mechanical Engineers: Gas Pipeline Safety Research Committee, Steven P. Burnley.
- Austin American-Statesman: "Pipelines: The Invisible Danger -- A Special Report," by Ralph K.M. Haurwitz and Jeff Nesmith, July 22, 2001.
- Seattle Post-Intelligencer: "Pipelines: America's Hidden Hazards," by Michael Paulson, Paul Nyhan, Scott Sunde , and Phuong Le, August 12, 1999.
- SAFE Bellingham Project: Carl Weimer, 360-733-8307 or 360-733-8307. Citizen group in Washington city where 3 people were killed in June 10, 1999, pipeline fire. Good set of links.