PHMSA

Top Trump Official for Pipeline Safety Profits from Selling Oil Spill Equipment

Drue Pearce

A newly appointed federal regulator charged with overseeing pipeline safety personally profits from oil spill responses, a DeSmog investigation has found.

Drue Pearce is the acting administrator for the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), an agency in the Department of Transportation responsible for ensuring oil and gas pipeline integrity. However, she is also associated with a company specializing in the sale of oil spill equipment.

“We Got Lucky” - Four Years After Lac-Megantic, Another Oil Train Accident

We were very lucky in this instance,” Plainfield Fire Chief David Riddle said. “There was no fire, nobody got hurt by the grace of God.”

As the residents of Lac-Megantic were preparing to acknowledge the 4th anniversary of the oil train disaster that leveled and poisoned their downtown and killed 47 people, residents of Plainfield, Illinois were happy to just be complaining about the odor of spilled oil after a train pulling 115 tank cars of Canadian crude oil derailed near their neighborhood.

Trump’s New Era of Industry Self-Regulation Begins for Oil by Rail

Crossing train tracks

In case you were wondering how industry-friendly the federal government is becoming, look no futher than Representative Jeff Denham (R-CA), chair of the Congressional Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials. He recently opened a hearing on pipeline and rail regulations with the following sentiment: 

Regulation has grown significantly in recent years and so we are here to ask stakeholders about the impact and burden of regulation on their businesses and ways to ease the burden without compromising safety.” 

Rail Industry Eager for a New Trump Era Light on Safety Rules

Elaine Chao

The policy landscape in Washington, D.C., dramatically shifted on Election Day…” 

While clearly not news to anyone, it was part of Edward Hamberger’s address to a conference in New York a week after Trump’s presidential victory. Hamberger is CEO of the rail industry lobbying group, the Association of American Railroads (AAR). The rail industry — along with many others — has seized upon the Trump victory as an opportunity to push a “free market” approach to avoid future regulations — and roll back existing ones. 

The Keystone Pipeline Network Could Soon Be Completed Under Trump, But Will It Be Safe?

Keystone pipeline in Texas

In the coming months, TransCanada will likely receive a green light to build the final leg of its Keystone pipeline network, which would carry Canadian tar sands to Gulf of Mexico refineries. President-elect Trump has said that, during his first 100 days in office, he will reverse President Obama’s decision to block the Keystone XL Pipeline.

If built, TransCanada maintains that the Keystone pipeline will be the safest pipeline ever built. But an ongoing DeSmog investigation into the Keystone network’s safety record continues to raise questions about the veracity of TransCanada’s claim.

Internal Watchdog Blasts Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Regulators Over Safety Rule Delays

Safety laws meant to protect the American public against oil train explosions, pipeline leaks and other deadly risks have been repeatedly held up by slow-moving federal regulators, a newly released Department of Transportation internal audit has concluded.

The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) — charged with overseeing 2.6 million miles of pipelines and the handling of a million hazardous material shipments a day — missed deadline after deadline as it attempted to craft the safety rules and regulations that give federal laws effect, auditors from the DOT inspector general's office wrote in their Oct. 14 report.

PHMSA’s slow progress and lack of coordination over the past 10 years has delayed the protections those mandates and recommendations are intended to provide,” the report concluded.

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.]

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