Friday, August 18, 2006

Closing the Barn Door After the.....

DOT's Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration will propose new rules to regulate some low-stress lines in rural areas, including BP's Prudhoe Bay lines.

Link: Planet Ark (Reuters): Pipeline Rules

Current US pipeline regulations exempt from oversight the 22-mile line operated by BP that leaked oil onto the Arctic tundra, spurring a shutdown of half the capacity of the 400,000 barrel-per-day field, the nation's biggest.

That's because low-stress lines like BP's Prudhoe Bay network -- ones that run at less than 20 percent of their rated capacity and are sited away from population centers -- are deemed to be less risky than high-pressure lines.

But the Transportation Department, which oversees the 200,000-mile network of pipelines that criss-cross the nation, is rethinking that equation after a BP pipeline in Prudhoe Bay ruptured in March, spilling at least 200,000 gallons of crude in the North Slope's worst onshore spill.

The pipeline inspection proposal will cover 1,600 miles of roughly 5,000 miles of US low-pressure pipelines.  The rules will require cleaning and inspections of low-stress lines every 5 years in "unusually sensitive" areas, such as endangered species habitats or community drinking supplies. Reportedly, BP's lines had not been cleaned for over 10 years. Environmentalists want all pipelines inspected.  Oil lobbyists argue that inspecting lower risk pipelines would unduly stretch inspection resources.

The head of the federal pipeline agency was quoted as saying:

Prudhoe Bay could have been prevented if BP had paid more attention to its maintenance,...The standard of care up there was well below what we've seen from other companies ... and well below what I would expect from a company like BP.

http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/environmental_law/2006/08/closing_the_bar_1.html

Biodiversity, Economics, Energy, Governance/Management, Law, North America, Toxic and Hazardous Substances, US | Permalink

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