For Immediate Release
For More Information Contact: Carl Weimer (360) 223-2636
Pipeline Safety Trust Calls on Congress to Close Pipeline Safety Loopholes
“The significant spillage caused by the extensive internal corrosion found on British Petroleum’s (BP) pipelines in Alaska’s Prudhoe Bay oil field, has resulted in increased concern that pipelines in other locations around the country pose similar risks,” said Carl Weimer, Executive Director of the Pipeline Safety Trust. Today the independent pipeline oversight group called on Congress to ensure effective regulation of these types of lines.
“We are calling on Congress to remove the exemption to federal pipeline safety regulations that allowed BP to perform inadequate maintenance on critical pipelines in Alaska. The practice of trusting the industry to “do the right thing” has been shown not to be in the public interest, as this critical infrastructure has deteriorated to the point that the country is faced with a significant economic impact,”
The Code of Federal Regulations Title 49 Part 195.1 contains an exemption from minimum federal pipeline safety standards for low stress pipelines in rural areas not near commercially navigable waters. BP’s pipelines thus were not required to meet the minimum federal standards for corrosion control, or the newer integrity management program requirements for pipelines which may affect “high consequence areas.” It also means that BP’s pipelines were not subject to inspection by the federal Office of Pipeline Safety (OPS) or required to report their spills to OPS.
The Pipeline Safety Trust urges Congress to take three important steps:
- Remove the current exemption for certain low stress pipelines,
- Direct OPS to develop additional requirements to prevent internal corrosion,
- Ask the Government Accountability Office to provide an independent report on all pipeline exemptions, for both oil and natural gas pipelines, to evaluate whether changes need to be made to better protect public and environmental health as well as the economy, and to clarify federal regulatory coverage of pipelines.
“The federal Office of Pipeline Safety has made great progress over the past five years increasing the safety of higher pressure pipelines in populated areas. OPS also should be commended for stepping in quickly when this situation with BP began to unfold last winter. Now Congress needs to hand them the authority and resources necessary to expand the types of pipelines covered to ensure protection of people, the environment, and our national economy,” said Weimer.
The Pipeline Safety Trust promotes fuel transportation safety through education and advocacy, by increasing access to information, and by building partnerships with residents, safety advocates, government, and industry, that result in safer communities and a healthier environment. The Pipeline Safety Trust is the only national public interest organization to focus on pipeline safety issues. It came into being based on the efforts and recommendations of citizens after the 1999 pipeline tragedy in Bellingham, Washington. In 2003, the U.S. Justice Department made a condition of the Olympic Pipeline criminal settlement that $4 million be designated for the start up of this independent non-profit organization to watchdog both the pipeline industry and its regulators.
Carl Weimer is the executive director of the Pipeline Safety Trust, he also serves as the chairman of the Governor appointed Washington Citizen Committee on Pipeline Safety, is a member of the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Technical Hazardous Liquids Pipeline Safety Standards Committee, and also is an elected member of the Whatcom County Council.