NTSB Press Release

National Transportation Safety Board
Office of Public Affairs


September 22, 2000

Washington, D.C. - The National Transportation Safety Board has scheduled a Pipeline Safety Hearing for November 15 and 16, 2000. The hearing will be held in the NTSB Board Room and Conference Center, 429 L'Enfant Plaza, S.W. Washington, D.C.

The Pipeline Safety Hearing will provide a forum to examine technologies available to assess the integrity of pipelines, such as the use of internal inspection tools, and the capability of pipeline operating systems to identify leaks and to prompt timely responses. The hearing will also seek to determine the status of ongoing research in these areas.

This hearing was prompted by the Safety Board's past investigations of numerous pipeline accidents in which pipe with time-related defects failed, and the Safety Board's current investigations of six pipeline accidents that have occurred in 1999 and 2000, which include potential pipeline integrity issues. Five of those six accidents involve controllers who may have failed to promptly recognize pipeline ruptures and then initiate timely action to reduce the consequences of the spill.

Recent accidents under investigation by the Board include pipeline failures in Bellingham, Washington on June 10, 1999 - in which three youths lost their lives after a spill of about 250,000 gallons of gasoline - and in Carlsbad, New Mexico on August 19, 2000 - in which a 30-inch natural gas pipeline violently ruptured near the Pecos River. Preliminary examination of the pipeline section that failed in Carlsbad revealed significant internal corrosion and pipe wall loss in some areas greater than 50 percent. This section of pipe was almost 50 years old. The Carlsbad accident resulted in 12 fatalities - the deadliest pipeline accident in the continental United States in almost 25 years.

Many of the hazardous liquid and natural gas transmission pipelines in our country are 30 to 50 years old. Although age alone does not indicate that a pipeline may be unsafe, determining the integrity of pipelines becomes increasingly important as our pipeline systems age.

In announcing the hearing, Jim Hall, Safety Board Chairman, said: "The safe transportation of natural gas and liquid petroleum products by pipeline is vital to meeting the energy needs of every community in our country. However, during the past two years, we have seen several failures involving aging pipelines. It is time to examine the technologies available to assess the condition of our pipeline systems."

Because of the importance of this national safety issue, all five Board Members will preside over the hearing.

Details of the hearing will be found on the Board's web page in the near future at www.ntsb.gov.

NTSB Office of Public Affairs: (202) 314-6100



The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is an independent federal agency charged with determining the probable cause
of transportation accidents, promoting transportation safety, and assisting victims of transportation accidents and their families.