News Releases

Murray Announces Preliminary Pipeline Safety Report from Department of Transportation's Inspector General

Feb 24 2000

Confirms need for inspections, better technology and training

(Washington, DC) - U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash.) today announced that she has received a preliminary report from Ken Mead, the Department of Transportation's Inspector General, regarding the status of pipeline safety. His report confirms the need for periodic inspections of pipelines and better inspection technology. In addition, it reiterates the need for better training of pipeline inspectors.

In August of this past year, Senator Murray requested that the Inspector General conduct a thorough investigation into the practices of the Office of Pipeline Safety (OPS) and the industry as a whole.

"The Inspector General delivered some insightful recommendations on pipeline safety which will be very helpful as we head towards reauthorization of the regulations affecting this vital industry," said Murray. "We must ensure the safety of all Americans living near pipelines, and this report moves us further along in that process."

The Key Findings of the Report are:

Inspection Standards and Frequency: The Research and Special Programs Administration (RSPA) has not implemented inspection standards to protect highly populated and environmentally sensitive areas as Congress mandated in both the 1992 and 1996 Pipeline Safety Acts.

Inspection Technology: OPS research and development programs have not developed internal inspection devices, "smart pigs," capable of detecting seam weld defects that can cause pipeline ruptures. OPS has not examined or developed alternative pipeline inspection technologies for pipelines that cannot accommodate such devices. (Industry estimates that 80% of transmission pipelines fit into that category.)

Inspector Training: RSPA safety inspectors are not trained in the use of internal inspection devices and cannot read or interpret the results of internal inspections conducted by operators.

Evaluation of Program Performance: OPS does not collect sufficient data to accurately identify accident causes and trends, and to evaluate safety performance measures.

Last month Senator Murray introduced "The Pipeline Safety Act of 2000" to help protect people, property, and the environment from the destruction caused by pipeline accidents. Senator Murray's bill does many of the things called for in the Inspector Generals's report. The legislation would expand state authority, improve inspection practices, expand the public's "right to know," improve the quality of pipeline operators, and increase funding to improving safety.