Gas Pipeline Safety — another neglected hazard comes to the forefront

Another example of 20/20 hindsight. The pipeline safety issue has a lot in common with the deep sea oil drilling matter: regulations dominated by industry for their benefit.  ProPublica just published Fatal Pipeline Accident Turns Attention to Nation’s Aging Pipelines

…the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration [in the Dept. of Transportation], the federal agency that regulates 2.3 million miles of oil and natural gas pipelines, largely relies on standards written by the oil and gas industry. It has about 100 inspectors, leaving industry a great deal of latitude with inspections. (Even after the blast, state utility regulators ordered PG&E  to inspect its own network of gas pipelines.)

And according to The Washington Independent, federal regulators are required to inspect only about 7 percent [6] of the country’s natural gas pipelines. That percentage is based on how populated the surrounding area is, and not the actual conditions of the pipelines.

Apparently, the needed improvements to the regulatory system are known.

Administrative changes needed to improve federal preparedness and response

Oil spill containment boom, shown holding back oil

Image via Wikipedia

In an article titled All Together Now, there is a discussion of the coordination needed at the federal level for disasters generally and for an oil spill in particular.  The article is subtitled: Collaboration-minded feds discover that getting agencies to work together is easier said than done.

Also on Sept. 15th, the Washington Post had a short news item regarding the management consulting study now underway at the new a bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEM), which formerly was the Minerals Management Service.  In case you forgot, that is the agency that mismanaged the BP Oil Spill.  The article notes that the McKinsey Co. study will not be completed until next year. A few more details are in this Wash Post note.

Let’s try not to have another spill until the results are know and implemented!