Pipeline Safety Rule Imminent

Tuesday, September 22, 2015 @ 11:09 AM gHale

A rule to strengthen safety requirements for pipelines that move oil and other hazardous liquids will end up unveiled this month following a recent surge in accidents, the U.S. government’s pipeline safety administrator said late last week.

The rule will determine if extra safety measures required in environmentally sensitive and populated areas should expand into new locations.

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The White House cleared the rule last week, and it will publish in the next seven to 10 days, said Michelle Dominguez, head of the Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA).

“The proposed regulations will result in critical safety improvements, and we hope they will spark a robust dialogue moving forward about pipeline safety in the United States,” Dominguez said during testimony during a U.S. Senate Commerce Committee field hearing on pipeline safety in Billings, MT.

A boom in U.S. energy production in has led to rising numbers of pipeline accidents.

More than 30,000 gallons of oil spilled into the Yellowstone River in January from a Bridger Pipeline LLC line near Glendive, shutting down the eastern Montana city’s water supply.

In May, a corroded pipeline owned by Plains All American released at least 101,000 gallons of crude near Santa Barbara, CA.

Both accidents remain under investigation, according to federal officials.

In 2014, there were 445 pipeline accidents spilling a combined 1.9 million gallons of hazardous liquids, including crude oil. That’s roughly 30 percent more accidents than the annual rate prior to 2008, when domestic oil production started to ramp up due to expanded production of shale oil in the Northern Plains and Texas.

While not revealing the specifics, Dominguez said new rules will focus on high-consequence areas such as rivers or densely populated areas, where the impacts of a spill or similar accident can be much greater.