1 December 2001
Study: OPS delinquent
Citing a U.S. General Accounting Office (GAO) report that documents dozens of statutes and administrative recommendations that have gone unimplemented for more than a decade by the Office of Pipeline Safety (OPS), Rep. James Oberstar, D-Minn., has introduced legislation that sets forth explicit requirements for pipeline operations (HR-144).
- Permits states to inspect pipelines, conduct investigations, and enforce federal pipeline laws and regulations
- Requires operators to analyze risks to facilities situated in high-density population areas or environmentally sensitive areas and prepare a hazard mitigation plan
- Provides increased civil penalties for violating federal standards
An OPS spokesman refused to discuss the GAO report or proposed legislation with InTech.
Major pipeline accidents increased to 280 in 1998, from 190 in 1989, for an annual growth rate of more than 4%, according to a study first released in May 2000, then updated in September 2001, by the GAO. Further, the OPS had not implemented 22 statutory requirements or 39 recommendations issued by the National Transportation Safety Board. OPS has implemented six of the 22 requirements in the past 18 months, has closed five requirements superseded by subsequent statutes, and should implement 10 of the remaining 11 requirements by late 2002.
"The Safety Board is encouraged," GAO investigators wrote, "by OPS's recent efforts to improve its responsiveness but remains concerned about the amount of time OPS has been taking to implement recommendations. OPS continues to have the lowest rate of any transportation agency for implementing recommendations from the Safety Board."
The incomplete statutory items include:
- A 1988 requirement that OPS establish standards for development and maintenance of a nationwide pipeline inventory
- A 1988 requirement for establishment of an inspection program for offshore and navigable water pipelines
- A 1992 requirement that OPS establish criteria for identifying all pipeline facilities in high-density and environmentally sensitive areas within two years
OPS has responsibility for developing and administering the regulations governing almost 2.2 million miles of natural gas and hazardous liquid pipelines in the U.S.