"Pipeline operators and their trade organizations shaped, managed and provided sizable funding for numerous safety studies conducted by the federal agency that regulates the industry, a Chronicle investigation shows.
Industry's access guaranteed influence. The studies launched by the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration helped mold national and state safety rules and inspection procedures for 2.3 million miles of pipelines that carry natural gas and hazardous liquids, some underneath neighborhoods.
Three deadly accidents in the past three years involved decades-old pipelines that might have been replaced - saving lives - had the outcomes of the federal agency's research, and the policies they influenced, been different.
The Chronicle investigation revealed that two-thirds of the 174 safety studies of land-based pipelines that the federal agency has started in the past decade were largely funded by pipeline operators or organizations they control. That's because the agency has required that, in most cases, at least half the funding for its pipeline safety research come from outside sources - a policy the Obama administration is now promising to change."