The federal government is offering more than $3 million in grants and the technical support of a new website in its new push for pipeline safety.
The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), part of the Department of Transportation, has announced $2.01 million in grants for 24 states to establish or improve underground pipeline damage prevention programs.
The grants will support “key elements” of such programs, including increased communication between pipeline operators and stakeholders, the use of technology in locating pipelines, and partnerships in employee training and public education, according to a DOT statement.
Investigation into September’s fatal gas pipeline explosion in San Bruno, CA, is focusing in part on the pipe coatings.
The State Damage Prevention grants were established by the Pipeline Inspection, Protection, Enforcement and Safety Act of 2006. Grant recipients
must provide mid-term and final progress and financial reports that demonstrate completion of their work as outlined in the grant agreements.
PHMSA says it will “thoroughly oversee this process to evaluate the expected outcomes of each grant project.”
“Accidents caused by digging are 100 percent preventable,” said DOT Secretary Ray LaHood. “These grants will help states save lives and prevent damage to pipelines by creating or improving existing state safety programs.”
Support for One Call
PHMSA has also announced the release of $1.06 million in One Call grants to help improve state pipeline safety programs. The grants are intended to minimize risks to excavators, protect the environment, and reduce the incidence of excavation damage to underground facilities.
One Call centers, established in 1995, respond to a national 811 phone number used by professional excavators and homeowners planning to dig in an area. The centers were launched after several serious accidents caused by excavation. One Call centers notify local utility companies and send locators to mark the locations of underground lines, pipes and cables before any digging begins.
With two deadly pipeline explosions in residential areas since September and a spill last summer, LaHood has called on U.S. pipeline owners and operators to conduct a comprehensive review of their oil and gas pipelines to identify areas of high risk and accelerate critical repair and replacement work.
LaHood has also called for federal legislation aimed at strengthening pipeline safety oversight and proposed increased fines for violations.
Website Locates Lines
Another part of the initiative: a new Pipeline Safety Awareness website
designed to provide the public, community planners and developers with an easy-to-understand, accessible place for information and guidance on locating area pipelines.
“Most people have no idea about the pipelines running under their houses and through their neighborhoods,” said LaHood. The website will “provide the public with information about the location of these pipelines and the safety record of the companies that operate them.”
The web site includes safety advisories on specific pipelines, as well as maps, reports, research, frequently asked questions and other resources regarding local pipeline infrastructure.
Forum Addresses Safety
The site was announced Monday (April 18) at the national Pipeline Safety Forum as part of DOT’s plan to address immediate concerns in pipeline safety.
The day-long forum and webcast
included panel discussions on “What Are The Highest Pipeline Risks?” “What Are The Challenges and How Are We Addressing Them?” and “What More Can Be Done?”
Attendees included numerous utilities representatives, officials of Pipeline Research Council International, government officials, safety organizations and pipeline companies.