State Pipeline Safety Website Transparency Review

Map of the results of our 2020 transparency review. Green states have “excellent” websites. Yellow states have “good” websites, orange states have “passing” websites and red states have “unsatisfactory” websites. Note: California PUC, which is responsible for gas pipelines received a score of “good” in the 2020 review while the California Fire Marshal, which is responsible for hazardous liquid pipelines, received a score of “unsatisfactory.”

Each year, the Trust conducts a review of each* state’s pipeline safety website, as well as the District of Columbia’s, to determine the amount of publicly available information and how accessible it is to members of the public.

This annual transparency review considers a number of factors including:

  • Ease of finding the state agency’s website and contact information for agency staff;
  • Accessibility of state and federal statutes and rules;
  • The description of what the state agency regulates and does not regulate;
  • Presence of transmission pipeline maps and operator contact information;
  • Availability of inspection records, and incident, enforcement and excavation damage data; and
  • Information about siting and routing of new pipelines.

Much of pipeline safety regulation and inspection is left to the states through agreements with PHMSA. When the public is wondering about pipelines near their homes, they will often reach out to their state first to see how pipelines are regulated and to learn about the risks posed by pipelines. For this reason, we believe it is vital to have certain information available to the public on these state websites and our annual transparency review shows which states are sharing this information with the public and which are not.

In our review, there are 33 points possible on a total of 11 different criteria. We are very pleased to note that 20 state programs now score at 22 or higher, meaning their scores average 2 or better on each of our criteria.   In our first review nearly a decade ago, only 3 states performed that well, and easily half the programs scored under an average of one point per criteria.  The improvement in providing the public information is worth celebrating!

In 2017 and 2018, we offered states an opportunity to have their websites reviewed in our state pipeline safety website auditing program. With these audits, states that chose to participate received individualized recommendations for how to improve what they presented on their website and how they presented information to the public. Twenty-three states participated in our audit program over those two years, and we have continued to provide feedback on websites to any state program that asks. Of special note this year, three states redesigned and dramatically improved their sites: Illinois increased its score by 11 to a total of 31; Idaho improved by 12 points to 20 points and Indiana improved by 13 to reach 26 points.

Thank you to all of the states who have already participated in our pipeline safety website audit program or who have improved their sites on their own! Of note for next year, we’ll be changing the criteria slightly to increase the score awarded for linking to the PHMSA damage prevention data page for that state.  PHMSA has dramatically improved those pages in recent years, and they now provide all of the information we ask for in our review criteria, so those links will be awarded 3 points next year, rather than 2.

We will provide a revised set of criteria before we begin our review next year. If you’re interested in finding out more about our auditing or transparency review program, please contact Rebecca Craven at rebecca@pstrust.org.

* We review each program that has a certification from PHMSA or an interstate agency agreement.  California has two separate agencies, Alaska and Hawai’i have no PHMSA-certified programs. We were unable to obtain a translator to review the Puerto Rico site this year.

2020 Website Review Results and Criteria

Previous Website Review Results and Criteria