The major recommendations from the report include:
• Evaluate the need for new U.S. pipeline safety regulations. Older safety standards designed for conventional oil may not provide adequate protection for communities and ecosystems in the vicinity of a DilBit pipeline. The Department of Transportation (DOT) should analyze and address the potential risks associated with the transport of DilBit at the high temperatures and pressures at which those pipelines operate and put new regulations in place as necessary to address these risks.
• The oil pipeline industry should take special precautions for pipelines transporting DilBit. Until appropriate regulations are in place, oil pipeline companies should use the appropriate technology to protect against corrosion of their pipelines, to ensure that the smallest leaks can be detected in the shortest time that is technologically possible, and companies should ensure sufficient spill response assets are in place to contain a spill upon detection.
• Improve spill response planning for DilBit pipelines. Spill response planning for DilBit pipelines should be done through a public process in close consultation with local emergency response teams and communities.
• New DilBit pipeline construction and development should not be considered until adequate safety regulations for DilBit pipelines are in place. The next major proposed DilBit pipeline is TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline. This pipeline approval process should be put on hold until the U.S. Department of Transportation Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) evaluates the risks of DilBit pipelines and ensures that adequate safety regulations for DilBit pipelines are in place.
• Reduce U.S. demand for oil, especially for tar sands oil. The United States can dramatically cut oil consumption by reinforcing existing reduction programs, such as efficiency standards for vehicles, and through new investments in alternatives to oil.
The entire report can be download by clicking here
The Pipeline Safety Trust believes that the report raises some important questions about transporting raw tar sands crude that should be clearly answered before we continue to allow it to flow through existing and proposed pipelines that are under a regulatory scheme that never considered these concerns. Those questions are based on the facts that this product is more corrosive and contains more solids than traditional crude, may be more difficult to deal with if it spills, and the high rate of internal corrosion failures in Alberta (where they have been handling this type of crude much longer).
These questions have been asked to the regulators by the potentially affected communities, and by public safety and environmental groups, and to date the regulators have not provided answers that show that they understand these issues or that current regulations for the construction, operation, inspection and maintenance of these pipelines are protective of these potential risks. Even Congress has been asking these questions without getting any answers, so the U.S. Senate has introduced a bill (Pipeline Transportation Safety Improvement Act of 2011) that requires a full assessment of the regulations to determine if they are indeed safe enough for tar sands crude.
Those questions, yet unanswered this far into the process, are the significance of this report.