When it comes to pipelines, a town, municipality, or region cannot be safe enough. Along those lines a new report out of Utah finds authorities could do more to prevent massive oil spills in the like the pair in 2010 that contaminated a lake.
The catch now is officials will have to decide if the recommendations are worth the cost.
The report, commissioned by Salt Lake City and released last week by the nonprofit Pipeline Safety Trust, comes after a Chevron pipeline failure in June 2010 released 33,000 gallons of oil into Red Butte Creek and Liberty Lake. About 21,000 gallons spilled nearby, in Salt Lake City’s eastern foothills, six months later.
Trust executive director Carl Weimer said regulators could do more to ensure the safety of the pipelines, and the oil and gas industry could be more transparent in its pipeline inspections.
Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker said the city needs to take the lead on protecting the community, rather than leaving the job to the industry.
In the report there are a series of recommendations for various agencies and stakeholder groups that could make pipelines in the Salt Lake Valley safer. Those recommendations include:
U.S. Congress or the Federal Office of Pipeline Safety (OPS) could:
• Adopt clearer standards for leak detection on hazardous liquid pipelines
• Clarify ambiguities in regulations regarding emergency and spill response planning to ensure companies provide necessary information to local governments, and that initial evacuation and monitoring also consider potential long term toxic effects to individuals.
• OPS should update their 2009 findings on construction problems to provide any measurable changes implemented by the agency, or the industry.
Utah State Legislature could:
• Consider expanding state authority to include all hazardous liquid pipelines and interstate gas transmission pipelines.
• Require the Utah Division of Public Utilities to review the NAPSR Compendium of State Requirements & Initiatives along side the Utah pipeline safety regulations and report back to the legislature on any possible improvements.
• Consider creating a citizen pipeline safety advisory committee to work with the pipeline industry and regulators to review pipeline safety in the state on a regular basis and make any needed recommendations for improving pipeline safety to the industry, regulators or the state legislature.
• Increase pipeline safety by requiring excavators and underground utility operators to report all incidents of damage to a pipeline to the Division of Public Utilities.
• Request a report from the Attorney General describing his enforcement efforts under the state’s damage prevention law (Utah Law 54-8a) and whether that enforcement authority would be more effective if transferred to another entity.
Utah Pipeline Safety Program could:
• Provide information on their website that details the companies inspected, the types of inspections undertaken, and what they found.
• Provide more and easier to find information about their regulatory activities, maps of pipelines, and excavation damage reports on their website.
Local Governments in the Salt Lake Valley could:
• Encourage or require the use of Blue Stakes of Utah’s One Call system whenever any permits end up granted that include excavation.
• Adopt recommendations regarding planning near pipelines from the Pipelines and Informed Planning Alliance (PIPA) Report. To include at a minimum a consultation zone and inclusion of transmission pipelines on planning and zoning maps.
• Ensure emergency response personnel (fire, police, health) have necessary equipment, training and information to respond to pipeline emergencies.
• Ensure there is a plan to advise people on the need for evacuations, and that air monitoring equipment adequate for determining long term health effects is onsite within a short time after an incident.
Pipeline Industry could:
• Continue to expand the Utah Pipeline Association so all pipeline operators in the state can have an easy “one stop” place for local government and the public to access pipeline info and training.
• Consider forming a public advisory committee of local government representatives and potentially affected citizens to help focus public awareness materials so they end up targeted at the appropriate audiences and include material important to the public.
• Make specific information about pipeline routes, construction, specifications, operations and inspections of their pipelines available on their websites.
Citizens of the Salt Lake Valley could:
• Learn where the pipelines are in their neighborhoods, and make sure they use the One Call system before digging. They should learn whom to contact if they see someone else they believe is digging without using the free One Call locate service, and who to notify and what actions to take if they suspect a release is occurring.
• Continue to review pipeline safety information and make elected officials, regulatory agencies and the pipeline industry aware of any safety concerns, and concerns regarding any inability to access pipeline safety information.