PHMSA

Former Inspectors Describe Dangerous Flaws in Construction of Major East Coast Gas Pipeline

In April, a massive explosion ripped through rural Salem Township, Pennsylvania when natural gas from a pipeline buried in a field suddenly ignited.

The Salem Township explosion offers a glimpse at how dangerous a natural gas pipeline accident can be — the blast when the 30-inch pipeline ignited blew a 12-foot deep hole in the ground and scorched 40 acres, sending one man to the hospital with burns on 75 percent of his body.

“It looked like you were looking down into hell,” a local fire chief, Bob Rosatti, told ABC News. “As far across my windshield as I could see was just a massive fireball.”

Exclusive: Release of Inspection Reports From TransCanada’s Keystone Pipeline Expose Risk of Future Spills

The US government agency responsible for interstate pipelines recorded a catalog of problems with the construction of TransCanada’s Keystone Pipeline and the Cushing Extension, a DeSmog investigation has found.
 
Inspectors at the US Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) observed TransCanada’s contractors violating construction design codes established to ensure a pipeline’s safety, according to inspection reports released to DeSmog under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).
 
Evan Vokes, former TransCanada materials engineer-turned-whistleblower, told DeSmog the problems uncovered in the reports show issues that could lead to future pipeline failures and might also explain some of the failures the pipeline had already suffered.
 
Vokes claimed PHMSA was negligent in failing to use its powers to shut down construction of the pipeline when inspectors found contractors doing work incorrectly. “You cannot have a safe pipeline without code compliance,” Vokes said.

TransCanada’s Keystone Pipeline Resumes Operations Under Supervision After South Dakota Dilbit Spill

TransCanada received permission from federal regulators to re-start the Keystone Pipeline a week after a 16,800-gallon spill in South Dakota. The pipeline started back up on Sunday morning at a reduced operating pressure.
 
The incident has given ammunition to a group appealing the decision by the South Dakota Public Utility Commission (PUC) to re-certify TransCanada’s permit to build the Keystone XL Pipeline, despite President Obama’s denial of a permit needed to cross international borders. 
 
The PUC reasoned that the next president could decide to issue the permit — a reminder that TransCanada has not given up on building the northern route of the Keystone XL. However, this most recent spill renews questions about the company’s ability to build safe pipelines.
 
When Evan Vokes, a former TransCanada materials engineer-turned-whistleblower, heard about a small spill along the Keystone Pipeline, he guessed that the leak would be found at a transition weld near where the pipeline crossed under a road. Transition welds connect thinner-walled pipe to thicker-walled pipe.

Keystone Pipeline Mishap Has TransCanada Scrambling Again

Landowners’ worst fears came true,” Jane Kleeb, the head of Bold Nebraska, told DeSmog after news broke about the latest Keystone pipeline oil spill. “When you have a pipe running through your farm or ranch-land all you think about is: it could break today.” 
 
On Saturday afternoon that fear was realized by a Hutchinson County, South Dakota land owner.  Loern Schulz found oil in surface water near the Keystone pipeline’s right-of-way and reported the spill. 
 
By Sunday, TransCanada had shut down the Keystone Pipeline, which originates in Alberta, Canada, and goes to Steele City, Nebraska. But the rest of its U.S. pipeline network is operational. 
 
The Keystone connects to the Cushing Extension pipeline that ends in Cushing, Oklahoma, where it connects to the Keystone XL’s southern route, renamed the Keystone Gulf Coast Pipeline when the project was split into sections. The Gulf Coast line moves product from Cushing to Nederland, Texas, providing TransCanada a route to move Canadian tar sands bitumen to the Gulf of Mexico for refining and export. 
 
Though President Obama rejected the northern Keystone XL route last year, which would have stretched from Alberta to Cushing, TransCanada has transported Canadian tar sands crude via its Keystone pipeline network since early 2014, when the Gulf Coast pipeline started operations
 
TransCanada didn’t have a representative at the potential spill site until Sunday. But by Monday, when the media broke the news, TransCanada had blocked off the area, making documenting the contaminated area from the ground impossible.

[UPDATE APRIL 8: KCCI reports that TransCanada now believes the Keystone pipeline has leaked about 16,800 gallons in South Dakota, a dramatic increase from initial estimates.]

If the Keystone XL Pipeline is Dead, South Dakota Regulators Didn’t Get the Memo

TransCanada pipe yard

TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline is not as dead as some of its adversaries claimed after President Obama denied the presidential permit for the border-crossing section of the tar sands pipeline. 

The company’s plans for the South Dakota part of the pipeline are still in play after the South Dakota Public Utility Commission (PUC) denied a motion to throw out the company’s request to certify its expired permit. 

Are US Regulators Trying to Cover Up Influence Of Lobbyists On New Oil-By-Rail Regulations?

It’s no secret that the oil and rail industries lobbied the Obama Administration heavily during the creation of new oil-by-rail regulations released this past May, with lobbyists reportedly not even taking a break the day after a major oil train accident.

But just how much influence did lobbyists actually have in the drafting of the regulations?

Environmentalists who criticize the new rules as far too weak to stop business-as-usual — which has already resulted in five oil train explosions so far this year — are endeavoring to find out by submitting Freedom of Information Act requests for correspondence between lobbyists and five federal agencies within the US Department of Transportation that worked on the oil train safety rules.

So far, they say, they’ve been stonewalled by the Obama Administration.

Environmental Group Launches Lawsuit Against Federal Government Over Pipeline Safety Planning

One of the country's largest environmental groups has accused the federal government of failing to follow pipeline safety planning laws, alleging that for more than two decades the Department of Transportation (DOT) has illegally allowed companies to operate oil pipelines that cross waterways without adequate preparation for spills and other disasters.

The National Wildlife Federation, which filed a notice of its intent to sue on Tuesday, accused the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), part of the DOT, of failing to properly enforce the Oil Pollution Act, enacted by Congress in the wake of the Exxon Valdez spill.

“Due to the agency’s decades-long oversight failures, every U.S. oil pipeline that intersects a navigable water is operating illegally,” the NWF wrote in a statement announcing the filing.

Federal Regulators Restrict Use Of Second Pipeline As Investigation Into California Oil Spill Continues

Federal regulators have ordered Plains All American to restrict usage of a second pipeline in California as preliminary results revealed extensive external corrosion issues with the pipeline that spilled more than 100,000 gallons of oil along the California coast at Refugio State Beach, including at least 21,000 gallons that poured into the Pacific Ocean.

Pipeline Company Responsible For Santa Barbara Oil Spill Had Horrendous Safety Record, But So Does The Entire Industry

Plains All American Pipeline, the company responsible for the 9-mile long oil slick polluting the California coast near Santa Barbara, is no stranger to oil spills.

The LA Times examined data kept by the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration and discovered that Plains has been cited for 175 safety and maintenance violations since 2006, and incidents involving the company’s pipes have caused more than $23 million in property damage while spilling more than 688,000 gallons of “hazardous liquid.”

TransCanada's Keystone Pipeline Network Under Investigation by Federal Regulators

A month after revealing that TransCanada is under a compliance review for the Keystone 1 Pipeline, the Pipeline Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) disclosed it is also investigating the operations of Keystone XL's southern route, renamed the Gulf Coast Pipeline when the project was split in half.

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