Basic Pipeline Info All But Unavailable, Pipeline Safety Watchdog Organization SaysNov 28th, 2011 | By fjgallagher | Category: Lead Articles, NYC Natural Gas Infrastructure
Maybe it’s because they’re overwhelmed; maybe it’s because the information doesn’t exist. Maybe it’s because it was never filed, or it was misfiled or maybe it’s because it’s really not a high priority right now — but for whatever reason, the vast majority of public regulatory agencies charged with overseeing pipeline safety at the state and federal levels can’t make even basic information about the systems they nominally oversee available for review by policymakers or the anybody else, for that matter.
According to a statement put out by the Pipeline Safety Trust today, the organization reviewed the data available online from the pipeline safety agencies in all of the states and the District of Columbia, as well as the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA).
The Pipeline Safety Trust concluded that:
75 percent of the states do an abysmal job of providing enough information so the public, local governments, or state legislators can determine much about pipeline safety in those states or how those agencies are performing.
We looked for eight basic items on each website and then rated how easy those items were to find. The eight items were: Contact information for agency staff; contact information for pipeline companies; pipeline safety regulations; transmission pipeline maps; incident data; inspection records; enforcement records; and excavation damage data. Only 8 states and PHMSA provided at least half of the information, with the vast majority providing far less information and in ways that made it difficult to find. PHMSA topped the survey for transparency, providing all the information.
PHMSA, the federal agency, emerged as the agency with the best access to data; Minnesota, Washington and South Dakota finished first, second and third, respectively, while New Jersey came in dead last, providing no information about natural gas infrastructure online.
“We believe that the public has a right to know about the pipelines that run through their communities and what pipeline safety agencies are doing to ensure they are operated safely,” Carl Weimer, the executive director of the Trust, said. ”Only when state pipeline safety agencies provide clear evidence that they are on top of these safety issues will trust in pipeline safety be rebuilt. Unfortunately, it appears that many states seem to care little about providing the public with basic pipeline safety information to allow the public to decide if things are as safe as can be.”
You can view an interactive chart that details the organization’s findings here; if you click on the state’s name, you find a link to the regulating agency for that jurisdiction.
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