TOPIC: Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration

After San Bruno explosion, trying to force regulators to do their jobs

San Bruno, CA October 2010

Assailing federal and state regulators, San Francisco’s city attorney is threatening to file a federal lawsuit both the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration and the California Public Utilities Commission for lax oversight, regulatory capture and a cozy relationship with Pacific Gas & Electric Co., according to reporting by Jaxon Van Derbeken of the San Francisco Chronicle.  “The public is at risk because the mandates of federal law have not been followed by PG&E or enforced” by regulators, [San Francisco City Attorney Dennis] Herrera said, adding, “it has become increasingly clear that regulators bear some fault here and were either asleep at the switch or too cozy with the industry they are supposed to regulate.”   Herrera said the goal of the suit he intends to file is to prompt regulatory authorities to do their job or be forced to do so — under court-ordered supervision. (more…)

EPA scolds State Department on oil pipeline

It’s one thing for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to be mad at an oil company, but, in the case of a proposed oil pipeline that will start in Alberta, Canada and snake through the Midwest, EPA is directing their ire at the State Department. The State Department must approve a pipeline built by TransCanada that will start in Alberta, because it crosses the American border. Elizabeth McGowan at Solve Climate reports that the State Dept. seems unconcerned about the numerous environmental problems — for greenhouse gas emissions, for migratory birds, for wetlands — that such an enormous pipeline might cause. (more…)

U.S.-Canadian oil pipeline shut down

The U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (part of the Dept. of Transportation) announced that is temporarily shutting down an oil pipeline that runs from Alberta, Canada into Montana and then the Great Plains and Midwest. Matthew Daley of the Associated Press reports that federal inspectors want to check safety on the pipeline run by the TransCanada company after a recent leak of 400 oil barrels in North Dakota.

The news comes as TransCanada wants a 2nd pipeline — one that would run from Alberta down into Texas. This pipeline needs approval not just from the Transportation Dept. but the State Department, since it crosses national borders.

At California utility, $35 million to leave his troubles behind him

San Bruno, CA – Sept. 2010

Federal prosecutors are apparently poring over documents related to last September’s natural gas transmission line explosion, laying the groundwork for possible criminal prosecution of Pacific Gas & Electric Co., according to John Upton of the Bay Citizen and Garance Burke of AP. Officially, however, the U.S. Attorney’s office in San Francisco is only ‘looking into’ the events that led to the 2010 explosion that killed eight and leveled 38 homes in a San Bruno subdivision. (more…)

San Bruno, CA pipeline blast: Where there’s no inspector, there’s fire

San Bruno, CA explosion

A series of unrelated errors, some made over half a century ago, aligned in a cascading series of failures that caused the deadly explosion last September of a major natural gas transmission line near San Francisco, reports Eric Nadler of the San Francisco Chronicle.

The story is based on newly-released documents from a National Transportation Safety Board investigation into the catastrophe.

On Sept. 9 a Pacific Gas & Electric Co., natural gas transmission line, some 30 inches in diameter, buried beneath a San Bruno Calif., subdivision failed. The ensuing fireball and inferno killed eight people and consumed 38 homes.  Operators at a San Francisco control room saw pressure spiking in several pipelines (more…)

In the pipeline: safety changes for underground gas lines

San Bruno aftermath

A wholesale revision of federal regulations related to utilities and their natural gas pipelines could emerge from the on-going investigation into the catastrophic transmission line rupture and massive explosion that killed eight and turned a quiet suburban subdivision outside of San Francisco into a smoldering crater. (more…)

The problem with politics is toothless government

courtesy doobybrain.comWhen government agencies don’t do their jobs, the result can be . . . death.  It would be easier to write “the result is often tragic,” or “lives are often lost.” But saying that something doesn’t happen, “often with tragic results,” is a commonplace in our language.  It lands only a deflecting blow on the way we think about the world.  When you talk about death — and responsibility for real people dying — you’re getting closer to reality.  And the reality is that nearly every disaster that’s not a force of nature can be linked to inaction at a government agency, or more accurately, to people at government agencies who aren’t taking their work seriously.