PIPES Act Looks Like a Winner

The new law addresses right of way, other pipeline issues in the right way.

I read a pipeline safety listserv that is a bubbling stream of scary, calming, angry, sometimes derisive missives about the topic. (I enjoy the debates and value the news.) One item winning praise as 2007 dawned was the Pipeline Inspection, Protection, Enforcement, and Safety Act of 2006, which President Bush signed into law Dec. 29. That's because, as DOT enacts various elements of the PIPES Act this year, people who live and work near hazardous liquid and gas pipelines will be safer than before. The law will deliver more money for state programs, more transparent federal enforcement, new teeth for the national 811 one-call system coming online this spring, and a new federal hours of service (HOS) standard applying to pipeline control room operators. Refreshingly, pipeline operators like it.

"We think it's a good affirmation by Congress that DOT is going forward in the right direction," said Raymond Paul, government relations director for the Washington, D.C.-based Association of Oil Pipe Lines, whose 53 members operate about 200,000 miles of crude oil and refined products (liquid) pipelines.

The law takes aim at controllers' fatigue both in the HOS mandate and in ordering DOT to amend accident reporting forms by Dec. 31, 2007, so controller fatigue is listed if it is a factor. Paul said two members of Congress drove this, being mindful there are HOS rules for transportation workers. "I think they really just made a leap of, 'Well, if it needs to be done there, it should be done here.' . . . At least based on the data that DOT has and we have, we've not seen fatigue as being a factor in any accidents," Paul said.

He said the law's Section 2, Pipeline Safety and Damage Prevention, was the highest priority for AOPL members because it will strengthen damage prevention programs. "We're very excited about the additional authority and direction that is given to both the states and to the federal government. It applies to excavators--including our own guys, pipeline operators [such as for] failure to mark. It's not just pointing a finger in one direction, it's hopefully addressing the issue from all directions," said Paul.

The listserv buzzes constantly about planned pipelines, leaks, and right of way issues. The PIPES Act spells progress for that group and all Americans.

This column appeared in the March 2007 issue of Occupational Health & Safety.

This article originally appeared in the March 2007 issue of Occupational Health & Safety.

About the Author

Jerry Laws is Editor of Occupational Health & Safety magazine, which is owned by 1105 Media Inc.

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