News Releases

Murray Reacts to Federal Grand Jury Ruling On Pipeline Tragedy

Sep 13 2001

Calls ruling "important first step," urges House passage of pipeline safety bill

(WASHINGTON, DC) -- Today a Federal Grand Jury in Seattle handed down a seven count indictment against the Olympic Pipeline Company and its employees based on their role in the deaths of three young men in Bellingham in June of 1999. The jury found "credible evidence" that the Olympic Pipeline Company and its employees violated federal law in its lack of oversight and operation of the pipeline that exploded, causing the deadly accident.

"For over two years state and federal authorities have investigated this accident. Today is an important first step in moving forward and answering some of the questions that surround this terrible tragedy." Murray said.

On June 10, 1999 a gasoline pipeline ruptured in Bellingham, WA. Gas poured out of the pipeline and overflowed into Whatcom Creek. Eventually, that gasoline ignited, creating a massive fireball and sending a plume of smoke more than 20,000 feet into the air. The explosion took the lives of three young men, shattered a community, and inflicted serious environmental damage.

Senator Murray has worked in Congress to improve pipeline safety nationwide. She has introduced comprehensive pipeline safety legislation that has passed the Senate by unanimous consent in each of the past two sessions. Similar pipeline legislation has been stalled in the U.S. House of Representatives over the same period. However, recent efforts by Representatives Larsen and Dunn have improved the chances that a bill will pass the House in the near future.

"The House needs to act. The longer they wait, the greater the possibility that more families and communities will be shattered by tragedy." Senator Murray states. "I am pleased that Washington state's congressional delegation has raised awareness of pipeline safety in the House and I look forward to working with them to ensure the passage of a bill that can be signed by the President."

As Chair of the Senate Transportation Appropriations Committee, Senator Murray has also worked to obtain the resources necessary to improve the oversight of the Office of Pipeline Safety (OPS). OPS is currently underfunded, and lacks the resources to properly inspect pipelines and enforce existing law.

Senator Murray included the following funding in the fiscal year 2002 Senate Transportation Appropriation bill:

  • $58.8 million for OPS, which is $11 million than last year

  • Funding for 26 new positions

  • $4.7 million for pipeline safety research and development of new pipeline testing and evaluation devices

  • $8 million for testing and best safety practices

  • $3.4 million for a national mapping system and improve community right-to-know

  • $2 million to help states ensure that the best damage prevention practices are fully assessed by all interstate pipelines,

  • $2.6 million to upgrade the information technology and administrative support to effectively implement programs within OPS