Federal agency is seen as slow in responding to pipeline safety

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The Bellingham WA gas pipeline explosion is mentioned here but no mention of y2k !!

Federal agency is seen as slow in responding to pipeline safety


WASHINGTON (AP) - The federal agency that oversees pipelines has been slow to respond to safety recommendations from the National Transportation Safety Board, the board's chairman said Tuesday.

The lack of action by the Research and Special Programs Administration ``continues to place the American people at risk,'' Jim Hall told a House subcommittee responsible for pipelines and hazardous material.

The panel met in response to a fatal pipeline accident last month in Bellingham, Wash. As well, it is preparing to reauthorize a pipeline safety law next year.

Panel Chairman Rep. Bob Franks, R-N.J., said Hall's statements were troubling and could prompt legislation or other action to spur the federal pipeline agency to act on safety recommendations.

The agency ``clearly had a grossly unacceptable record of adopting recommendations,'' Franks said.

The safety board is investigating the cause of a June 10 pipeline rupture that spilled 250,000 gallons of gasoline into Whatcom Creek in Bellingham.

Two 10-year-old boys who were playing with bottle rockets ignited the blast, killing themselves and an 18-year-old man fishing nearby.

Hall said the pipeline agency accepts only slightly more than two-thirds of the board's safety recommendations, the lowest rate of any agency within the Transportation Department.

``We have a process here that seems to be being ignored,'' Hall said.

For instance, in 1987 the board recommended that the agency require regular training programs for pipeline personnel. But for 11 years the agency failed to act and in 1998 the board considered its recommendation rejected.

In 1995, the board recommended new requirements for a rapid shutdown of pipelines in emergencies, but that action was not taken, Hall said.

But Kelley Coyner, the agency's administrator, said acceptance of board recommendations has been improving in recent years.

She also touted the agency's overall pipeline safety record, saying mishaps have steadily declined in 30 years.

``While the rate of decline has slowed in the past decade, it remains moving in the right direction,'' Coyner told the subcommittee.

Industry representatives called for no drastic changes in the nation's pipeline safety law.

``The Bellingham disaster does not represent anything close to the norm in our industry,'' said Steven Ball of the Association of Oil Pipe Lines. ``It should not precipitate drastic changes in public policy. Bellingham notwithstanding, oil pipelines are safe and getting safer.''

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-- Ray (ray@totacc.com), July 27, 1999


Also see this semi-recent thread:


"National alert issued in aftermath of Bellingham pipeline accident"

-- Linkmeister (link@librarian.edu), July 27, 1999.

I gotta say here folks that this problem WAS precipitated by a computer failure in the highly sophisticated control center of Olympics' line. No one has ever said what caused the system to degrade or the backup system to fail. The press has been quoted as saying the systems had recently been upgraded. The question would be to what? A new OS? What was the "internal database error" which caused the whole freaking thing to crash and burn?

I gotta tell ya, IMHO this whole thing stinks. If in fact it was an "internal database error" caused by something other than Y2K why not come right out and explain it? It might help save lives if we could actually identify the computer error that caused this. But no, the whole thing centers on a weak spot in the line, operator error and a faulty valve. Bullshit say I, it was inspired by a computer crash. Those kids died because of a failed computer. Was it Y2K? We may never know. Where's Drudge or Worldnet Daily when ya needem.

-- Gordon (g_gecko_69@hotmail.com), July 27, 1999.

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