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Government proposes improved reporting standards for some pipeline accidents

Posted: Tuesday, April 03, 2001

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Transportation Department is proposing to significantly lower the reporting threshold for some pipeline accidents.

The proposed rule would require hazardous liquid pipeline operators to report any accidents of more than five gallons. Current rules require reports when an accident exceeds 50 barrels, or 2,100 gallons.

''Strengthening our understanding of the cause and consequences of pipeline failure is an important priority for our agency,'' said Edward A. Brigham, acting deputy administrator for the Research and Special Programs Administration, which regulates 2 million miles of natural gas and hazardous liquid pipelines. ''Better information will be a cornerstone of a new pipeline integrity program.''

Three people -- Wade King and Stephen Tsiorvas, both 10, and fly fisherman Liam Wood, 18 -- were killed in June 1999 in Bellingham, Wash., when gasoline from a pipeline rupture ignited in a fireball along a city park stream.

Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., who has been lobbying for ipipeline safety standards ever since, said congressional pressure is having a positive effect on regulators.

''Lowering the threshold will give us a better understanding of where problems exist so that (the Office of Pipeline Safety) can investigate these problems before they become catastrophes,'' Murray said in a statement. ''This is a positive step, but it is not a replacement for a comprehensive overhaul for our pipeline safety regulations.''

The proposed rule, announced Monday, appeared in the Federal Register in late March. It would affect an accident report form that has not been revised since 1984.

Smaller spills -- between five gallons and five barrels -- would not require full reports if they meet certain criteria.

Based on a survey by the American Petroleum Institute, RSPA estimates 1,839 incidents will be reported annually and will cost the industry $136,600, a ''relatively modest burden on the hazardous liquid pipeline industry,'' the agency said in its proposal.



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