Since 2011, the Pipeline Safety Trust has conducted an annual review of each state regulatory agency’s pipeline safety website. Our goal is to encourage states to make information about pipeline safety — like inspection records, incident data, maps, etc. — as transparent to the public as possible.
We evaluate each website with the following criteria:
- Ease of finding the state agency’s website and contact information for agency staff;
- Accessibility of federal and state statutes and rules;
- The description of the scope of the state’s authority (and lack of authority);
- Existence 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.
The graphic below shows how states performed in our 2017 review. We consider below 17 points to be “failing” (red), 17-24 points to be “passing” (yellow), 25-32 points to be “good” (light green), and a perfect score of 33 points is “excellent” (dark green). California has two entities responsible for pipeline safety; one agency has a score of “good” while the other has a score of “failing.” States and territories in black have no pipeline safety program.
For some states, seeing their state in red is enough to force them to act. For others, a drive for excellence catalyzes website improvements. For years now, Arkansas and Washington have led the pack, getting perfect or near-perfect scores every year. Last year, they were joined by Nevada, which achieved a perfect score for the first time.
This year, however, we decided public shaming isn’t always the best way to get states to improve their website transparency. So, we offered a free website audit, including detailed recommendations for improvements, to any state that wanted to participate. Fifteen states signed up in time to receive an audit and make changes before the 2017 review.
Among those 15 states, three have already taken our recommendations to heart and made significant changes to their websites. The California Public Utilities Commission made notable improvements to their site after our audit this year, bringing them from the middle of the pack to the top. Colorado also asked for an audit and worked closely with us to improve their website in 2017, leading to a much more user-friendly, transparent site. And, New Hampshire amped up an already fine website, adding information about siting and routing and better access to some data. We hope other states we have worked with will make similar changes in the coming year as time allows.
While not all the states for which we conducted audits incorporated our recommendations, we are pleased with the outcome of this effort, and will continue to offer audits into 2018. In 2016, we had 19 states with a score of “passing” or better. Now have 21 states with passing scores or better, and next year, we’re shooting for 25.