The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) recently published 28 recommendations to improve the oversight of natural gas pipelines in the U.S. In 2004, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) adopted new safety standards following a decade of increasingly frequent pipeline explosions and fires. Now the NTSB says that those regulations have helped to stop that trend, but have not reversed it.
The agency added that state-regulated pipelines, which don't cross state borders, record 27 percent more incidents than federally regulated ones. Incidents like the 2010 San Bruno pipeline explosion, which killed eight people, are symptoms of a lack of proper oversight, according to the report. In that case, Pacific Gas and Electric Company is facing a fine of more than $1 billion for not conducting inspections that could have detected the threat.
The NTSB is especially concerned about pipelines that run through populated areas. Nearly half of all gas lines in the country date from before 1970, and lack the technology of newer constructions. Among the recommendations the agency made are increasing collaboration between federal and state regulators and creating a national mapping system that would help detect high-risk pipelines.
"Effective oversight and management of these programs saves lives, preserves property and protects the environment," said acting NTSB chairman Christopher A. Hart.
The report said that state inspectors are often less experienced than their federal counterparts and less able to carry out appropriate pipeline integrity assessments. Safety Advantage offers operator qualification training to pipeline safety professionals, ensuring that they are fully prepared to detect any deficiencies that could lead to serious safety incidents.