U.S. Proposes New Safety Rules For Natural Gas Pipelines

Mar 21, 2016

A fireball erupts across Interstate 77 from a gas pipeline explosion in Sissonville, W.Va. In the 2012 incident, the stretch of pipeline that ruptured hadn't been inspected or tested in 24 years.
Credit West Virginia State Police / AP

Following a series of explosions and accidents the federal government announced Thursday it would expand safety rules for natural gas pipelines.

Regulators cited a 2010 explosion in San Bruno, California that left eight people dead and injured more than 50.

“The significant growth in the nation’s production, usage and commercialization of natural gas is placing unprecedented demands on the nation’s pipeline system,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said in a statement.  “This proposal includes a number of commonsense measures that will better ensure the safety of communities living alongside pipeline infrastructure and protect our environment.”

The Associated Press first reported on the move, which would fall to the DOT’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA). The rules would include pressure-testing on pipelines constructed before 1970, which has been a recommendation National Transportation Safety Board. Safety protocols that currently apply to densely populated areas would be expanded to include those with less population. PHMSA says the proposal would also help reduce the release of greenhouse gases from leaking pipes.

The proposed rules would also regulate, for the first time, rural gathering lines. Currently, all those thousands of miles of smaller pipe that get the gas from the wellhead to major transmission pipelines are not regulated in rural areas, which is where most of them are in Pennsylvania. There are no rules on how deep the lines should be underground, or even if they’re buried at all. And they doesn’t even have to be marked. No state or federal agency knows how many miles of lines there are, or where they are.

Read more of this report on the site of our partner, StateImpact Pennsylvania