Last month, this blog reported on the abundance of unregulated gathering pipelines across the United States. These are short pipelines, often running through rural areas, that carry gas and oil from their source to processing plants. There are some 240,000 miles of these lines in the U.S., and most of those fall outside the jurisdiction of both the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) and state regulatory agencies due to their perceived low risk.
PHMSA regulations only kick in if there are at least 10 homes along a mile of pipeline, but some experts believe this should change. In the case of natural gas, the expansion of hydraulic fracturing means that gas is now extracted at very high pressures, which is considerably more dangerous.
Because of this, former PHMSA administrator Brigham McCown has joined the calls for greater oversight. McCown is proposing that federal and state governments set pressure and size limits on gathering pipelines, an idea that is receiving bipartisan support from politicians in states where fracking is becoming widespread.
"If it's going to work, we have to make sure public safety is paramount; that's number one," said Representative Michael F. Doyle (D-Penn.) to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. "Then the environment. And if we can protect those two things and mitigate the risk through good regulation and good oversight, then I think it's worth doing."
Pipeline safety training is more important than ever given the expansion of new extraction methods that don't always come under the umbrella of current rules. Safety Advantage offers courses to help professionals obtain their pipeline operator qualification.