National Transportation Safety Board
Office of Public Affairs
National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Deborah A.P. Hersman today told a Senate committee that, although the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Administration has made significant safety accomplishments in the past 5 years, there are still several PHMSA-related issues with which the Safety Board has concerns.
Testifying before the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation on the reauthorization of PHMSA, Hersman said PHMSA has been responsive to the 24 NTSB safety recommendations issued in the last 8 years, with 15 of them being closed in an acceptable action status; none of them has been closed in an unacceptable status.
One issue of concern to the Board, Hersman said, was that PHMSA issued a final rule in 2009 requiring gas distribution pipeline operators to develop and implement integrity management programs similar to those for hazardous liquid and gas transmission lines. Hersman said that although the final rule emphasizes leak detection, it should also specifically address the use of excess flow valves to mitigate leaks.
Another issue Hersman raised was the regulation of low- pressure pipeline systems. Although PHMSA has been mandated by Congress to issue rules subjecting low-stress hazardous liquid pipelines that pose a threat to sensitive environmental areas to the same standards and regulations as other hazardous liquid pipelines, exceptions listed in PHMSA's 2008 rule meant that most low-stress pipelines and on- and off-shore gathering pipelines remain essentially unregulated. Earlier this week, PHMSA issued a "phase two" proposal that expands coverage of the rule.
The NTSB will study the new proposal before commenting on it, but Hersman spoke of the importance of rules in this area. "The tragedy in the Gulf of Mexico involving the Deepwater Horizon drilling platform is a grim reminder of the damage that a major oil spill can cause. While the magnitude of the Deepwater Horizon spill is far greater than any known pipeline failure, the events in the Gulf should remind those involved in the pipeline industry that all pipelines must be sufficiently safeguarded and regulated in order to protect the public and the environment."
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.