What can be done to address health concerns? What have others done?
Most excavation incidents occur when an entity other than the operator is digging near pipelines, and these incidents lead to the largest number of personal injuries and fatalities. Excavation risks therefore need to be managed by multiple stakeholders — including operators, regulators, municipal planners, property owners, and private excavators.
Pipeline operators: Damage to pipelines due to excavation has been decreasing in recent years, thanks to one-call centers, or “call before you dig” phone banks. Pipeline markers are also important in preventing excavation damage, but they are not exact indicators of pipeline locations, so contacting a one-call center is still necessary before excavation begins.
Pipeline companies are using improved technology and detection techniques, such as handheld infrared scanners, to address potential problems due to corrosion or pipeline defects. 1 Some experts have recommended more frequent replacement of aging pipelines to prevent potential problems and that all pipelines, including rural gathering lines, be regulated by OPS.
OPS requires operators to conduct public awareness programs regarding pipeline safety. Activities include disseminating materials on the use of one-call centers; communicating with stakeholders on pipeline locations and the detection of any leaks; and trainings for first responders. 2
Local governments: While local governments traditionally have jurisdiction over land use, they have infrequently addressed pipeline issues, or have done so in the absence of risk- or site-based data. 3 Following several major pipeline incidents in 2004, the Transportation Research Board (TRB) recommended that the federal government provide risk-based guidance on land use near pipelines. 4, 5 As a result, the Pipelines and Informed Planning Alliance (PIPA) was created under OPS to provide guidance to local communities, pipeline operators, property developers/owners, and real estate commissions. These guidelines include siting considerations; width of pipeline corridors and easements; appropriate land use, human activities, and structures in the vicinity of the easement; setbacks to protect people and property; and model ordinances. The guidelines were developed for transmission pipelines only and are not mandatory. 6
Therefore, in terms of considerations for improving pipeline safety, local planning commissions could make risk-based determinations on the above considerations according to the needs of their communities. They could also include pipeline locations on local plats and planning documents. Local governments could require real estate transactions to disclose pipelines within 600 feet of the property line. 7
Property owners and private excavators: Prior to conducting excavation activities, it is important to check for pipeline markers and make use of one-call centers to determine the exact location of any pipelines on or near the property.
- Pennsylvania State University Extension Agency, http://extension.psu.edu/natural-resources/natural-gas/publications/negotiating-pipeline-rights-of-way-in-pennsylvania. ↩
- INGAA, “How Are Natural Gas Transmission Pipelines Regulated?” (2014), http://www.ingaa.org/cms/4923.aspx. ↩
- The Transportation Research Board, “Transmission Pipelines and Land Use: A Risk-Informed Approach” (Special Report 281, Washington, DC, 2004), viii, http://onlinepubs.trb.org/onlinepubs/sr/sr281.pdf. ↩
- Office of Pipeline Safety, “Building Safe Communities: Pipeline Risk and Its Application to Local Development Decisions” (October, 2010), http://pstrust.org/docs/PIPA-PipelineRiskReport-Final-20101021.pdf. ↩
- The Transportation Research Board, “Transmission Pipelines and Land Use: A Risk-Informed Approach” (Special Report 281, Washington, DC, 2004), http://onlinepubs.trb.org/onlinepubs/sr/sr281.pdf. ↩
- Pipelines and Informed Planning Alliance, “Partnering to Further Enhance Pipeline Safety in Communities through Risk-Informed Land-Plan Use: Final Report of Recommended Practices” (November 2010), http://www.ingaa.org/File.aspx?id=11683. ↩
- Municipal Research and Services Center, last updated November 3, 2014, http://www.mrsc.org/subjects/pubsafe/pipesafety.aspx. ↩