Energy & Environment

Regulators seek faster pipeline spill notifications

Federal regulators want operators of pipelines for oil and other materials to notify federal officials within an hour after breaches and leaks.

The Wednesday proposal came weeks after an oil pipeline was breached along the Pacific Ocean coast in Santa Barbara County, Calif., leaking over 100,000 gallons into the ocean and coating beaches.

{mosads}The owner of that pipeline, Plains All American Pipeline, did not notify the federal government until at least 90 minutes after it discovered the leak, according to The Associated Press.

The Pipeline and Hazardous Material Safety Administration (PHMSA) is proposing to require operators to notify its National Response Center at the “earliest practicable moment” after a leak, but not within more than an hour.

It’s part of an overhaul of the rules regarding how pipeline operators respond to incidents like leaks, including personnel training, drug and alcohol testing, and assessing pipeline cracks.

“We constantly seek to raise the bar on safety,” Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, whose department includes the pipeline agency, said in a statement.

“This proposed rule will improve safety in a number of ways, including a notification time limit which eliminates any ambiguity about timeliness in reporting and is crucial to the ability to mitigate damage and protect people, property and the environment following an incident,” he said.

The Transportation Department said many of the provisions in Wednesday’s proposal respond directly to recommendations from the National Transportation Safety Board.

“We will continue to update our regulations to positively influence pipeline operator safety programs and to address concerns related to failures, operator error and other safety risks,” Stacy Cummings, interim executive director of the pipeline agency, said in the statement.

Officials interpret the current regulations to limit pipeline operators to a one- or two-hour time frame for incident notifications, but the existing rules do not have an actual time limit.

Tags Anthony Foxx oil Pipeline and Hazardous Material Safety Administration pipelines
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