Gas pipes crumbling, government bungling?
September 6, 2011
The condition of gas transmission pipelines all across the United States is being grossly misrepresented by the nation’s top regulators, taking a “friendly tone” toward the industry. [SanFranciscoChronicle]
The newspaper obtained a copy of a draft report by the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, which the newspaper said misrepresents accident statistics, overstates the industry’s track record, and omits key issues arising from the San Bruno explosion and other recent disasters.
Another report on the same subject, by the National Transportation Safety Board, was much more critical of the pipeline industry after an examination of the Pacific Gas and Electric explosion a year ago which killed eight people and destroyed 38 homes.
The allegedly flawed report is being prepared at the behest of U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, who commissioned the report in April in reaction to pipeline accidents in Texas, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Florida, as well as San Bruno.
LaHood’s own agency, however, has learned that significant safety incidents involving gas transmission lines increased more than 50 percent, from 286 to 442. These have occurred since the federal government started regulating pipeline inspections eight years ago, compared with the previous eight years. Injuries rose by two-thirds, from 61 to 102.
Ten deaths from gas-line accidents in 2010 was the second-largest number for any year in the past two decades, the newspaper reported.
“This report as currently configured is not credible,” said Richard Kuprewicz, a pipeline safety consultant from Redmond, Wash. “It contains many errors of fact.”
Carl Weimer, executive director of the nonprofit Pipeline Safety Trust in Bellingham, Wash., warned that the public is “going to start questioning the report right off the bat.”
The report will undergo “more review” before being released, agency officials said.