Senators’ letter to Transportation Secretary LaHood comes just before the one-year anniversary of the San Bruno pipeline explosion
Sep 08 2011
Washington-U.S. Senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein (both D-CA) today urged Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood to immediately adopt the pipeline safety recommendations proposed by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) last week in its report on the September 9, 2010 San Bruno natural gas pipeline explosion which killed eight people and destroyed 38 homes.
The Senators urged Secretary LaHood to implement all the NTSB’s recommendations directed at the Department of Transportation and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA). Those recommendations include requiring the installation of automatic or remote control shutoff valves in high consequence areas, making sure that the proper tools are in place to predict and detect natural gas leaks, ensuring that in the event of a leak control room operators immediately alert 911 call centers, and requiring prompt drug and alcohol testing of any personnel whose performance could have possibly contributed to an accident.
In their letter the Senators wrote, “This accident brought to light deficiencies in the regulation and management of pipeline safety. To ensure that an accident such as this does not happen again, we urge you to implement all of the NTSB’s recommendations directed at the Department of Transportation and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.”
The Senators’ letter to Secretary LaHood comes on the day the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee is expected to vote on H.R. 2845, a pipeline bill which ignores several NTSB recommendations and would even block important safety reforms. NTSB Chairman Deborah Hersman has warned that the bill could “weaken an already lax system of oversight.”
Earlier this year, in response to the San Bruno disaster, Senators Boxer and Feinstein introduced the Strengthening Pipeline Safety and Enforcement Act of 2011. Many of the bill’s key provisions were incorporated into a pipeline safety bill that passed the Commerce Committee in May.
Implementing the NTSB’s recommendations would be an important step toward addressing what the agency called a “litany of failures” that led to the deadly San Bruno pipeline explosion. Just a day after the NTSB made its findings on the San Bruno disaster, an apparent gas leak explosion rocked a home in Cupertino, and Pacific Gas & Electric crews found seven leaks in the pipes that distribute gas in the area.
The full text of Senator Boxer and Senator Feinstein’s letter is below:
September 8, 2011
The Honorable Ray LaHood
U.S. Department of Transportation
1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE
Washington, DC 20590
Dear Secretary LaHood:
Last week, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) released 29 new safety recommendations in a report on the 2010 San Bruno pipeline explosion. As you know, the accident, caused by a rupture in a natural gas pipeline, killed eight people and destroyed 38 homes in the community of San Bruno, California.
This accident brought to light deficiencies in the regulation and management of pipeline safety. To ensure that an accident such as this does not happen again, we urge you to implement all of the NTSB’s recommendations directed at the Department of Transportation and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA).
The recommendations include:
- Requiring the installation of automatic shutoff valves or remote control valves in high consequence areas and in class 3 and class 4 locations;
- Removing the grandfather clause for pre-1970 pipelines and requiring that these pipelines now undergo hydrostatic pressure testing, including a spike test;
- Ensuring that manufacturing- and construction-related defects will only be considered stable if the pipeline has been subjected to pressure tests of at least 1.25 times the maximum allowable operating pressure;
- Requiring operators of natural gas and hazardous liquid pipelines to provide information about their systems to emergency agencies in the communities and jurisdictions where the pipelines are located;
- Ensuring control room operators immediately and directly notify local 911 call centers when there is a possible pipeline rupture;
- Making sure that the proper tools are in place to detect natural gas leaks and determine their locations;
- Requiring prompt drug and alcohol testing of any personnel whose performance could have possibly contributed to an accident;
- Requesting that natural gas pipelines be built or modified to accommodate in-line inspection tools, with priority given to older pipelines;
- Revising the PHMSA management inspection protocol and developing new safety standards for pipeline operators that include meaningful performance metrics, accurate information, effective risk models, and clear performance goals to evaluate and correct pipeline deficiencies;
- Assisting the California Public Utilities Commission in its audit examining all aspects of Pacific Gas and Electric Company’s operations, including control room operations, emergency planning, record-keeping, performance-based risk and integrity management programs, and public awareness programs; and
- Working with the state public utility commissions to implement meaningful metrics to evaluate the effectiveness of their pipeline oversight programs and correct any deficiencies.
Nearly one year after the devastating explosion in San Bruno, we remain committed to protecting our communities and taking the necessary steps toward better pipeline safety standards. Please let us know if we can be of assistance.
Thank you for your consideration of this important matter.
United States Senator
United States Senator