This week, the Pipeline Safety Trust welcomed the API-LEPA Performance Excellence Team (PET) to Bellingham, WA. The PET is an industry effort to develop strategic initiatives to improve pipeline safety on hazardous liquids pipelines.
The Trust and the PET shared lunch and each discussed current programs and initiatives as well as top priorities. But what followed was the real reason for the visit, touring the site of the 1999 pipeline tragedy that stole the lives of three boys due to the Olympic Pipeline operator’s criminal negligence.
It was one of those days when I was incredibly grateful to have Carl Weimer, PST’s original Executive Director, still on board so he could walk the PET through what happened that day. Carl was in Bellingham on that June day, on the banks of Whatcom Creek, and has lived through the communal grief in the years since.
While people continue to die in pipeline accidents, we’re grateful for industry leaders taking the time to learn more about how this specific tragedy affected the victim’s families and a community at large. In my short time as Executive Director, I’ve been amazed by the number of people from the pipeline industry and regulatory agencies who have shared with me how the Olympic Pipeline tragedy in Bellingham changed their careers and the way they have worked with pipelines. I remain hopeful that all of us, the public, the industry, the regulators, the Tribes, local governments, and all other rights-holders and stake-holders, can continue to work together to get to zero pipeline incidents.
As a watchdog on the pipeline industry and its regulators, we will always bark loudly at industry practices that don’t prioritize safety strongly enough. But there are also times when we must come together to recognize our common goal of zero incidents. This visit was one of those times. We’re grateful to the PET for prioritizing safety in their strategic initiatives.