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Pipeline spills, leaks and terrorist attacks

July 1, 2002 By    

Pipeline operators may soon be required to guard against terrorist attacks as well as leaks and spills.

Federal legislation to enhance pipeline safety is slowly working its way through the House. Though the Senate has passed pipeline legislation several times – most recently as part of a major energy bill – the Republican House has dragged its feet until now. But three panels have recently approved measures with new language concerning terrorism. It remains uncertain whether Congress will include pipeline safety in a major energy bill or pass it as separate legislation.

For starters, both the House Transportation & Infrastructure and the Energy & Commerce committees approved similar versions of the Pipeline Infrastructure Protection to Enhance Security & Safety Act. The bill includes the following provisions:

  • Governments would have to participate in “one-call notification systems.” Non-profits could get up to $500,000 per year through 2005 in grants for technical assistance while states could share $1 million annually to get the systems operating.
  • The Department of Transportation would have to assess the vulnerability of pipelines to terrorism as part of safety and security assessments. DOT could require corrective action for operators it deems haven’t taken sufficient action to guard against attack.

Pipeline operators would have to work with the public and local officials on community response plans to incidents and provide updated maps of their lines to local governments. They would have to start and maintain contact with state emergency response teams and local emergency planning committees. They also would be required to develop security programs including communications with military, police, emergency response teams and other public officials to deal with terrorism.

Incident and safety condition reports would have to be made available to the public, but operators could withhold information that DOT deems could subject lines to terrorism.

  • Operators would have to develop employee qualification plans including initial and periodic testing. DOT would develop a pilot program, but operators could choose to use their own.
  • Operators would have to provide info to DOT on their personnel, security programs and corrective actions.
  • Owners would have to undergo environmental review of repair and rehabilitation efforts.
  • Approved states could assume inspection responsibilities.

Meanwhile, The House Science Committee approved the Energy Pipeline Research, Development & Demonstration Act. This bill aims to coordinate federal research, demos and standardization conducted by DOT, The Department of Energy and the National Institute of Standards & Technology.

The bill would give the three agencies a year to come up with a plan to coordinate their efforts. DoE would get $10 million/year while the other agencies would get an additional $5 million per year for the efforts through 2006.

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