Spectra Energy Cited By Feds for Probable Pipeline Safety ViolationsJul 27th, 2011 | By Mark | Category: Lead Articles, Regulation
Spectra Energy, the company seeking permission to construct a massive, new natural gas pipeline that would run between New York City and New Jersey, has been cited by federal regulators for 17 inadequacies in its pipeline safety operations and procedures.
According to a June 13 Notice of Amendment from the PHMSA to Spectra, the federal agency inspected the gas company’s Operating and Maintenance Procedures on Nov. 29, 2010 at Spectra headquarters in Houston, TX. In connection with that inspection, Spectra provided the PHMSA representatives a copy of the company’s Operations and Maintenance Plan.
The inspectors found that Spectra’s plans and procedures were inadequate in a number of areas, including:
- continuing pipeline surveillance,
- emergency plans, and
- welding procedures.
For example, with respect to continuing pipeline surveillance, federal regulations require every pipeline operator to define a procedure for monitoring its pipelines and to take appropriate action in response to changing conditions, such as corrosion, failure, leakage or other developments.
During the inspection, federal regulators discovered the Spectra’s plans and procedures addressed only aerial surveillance and “did not adequately address the surveillance of all risk elements … .”
Spectra’s operations and procedures manual was also found deficient by federal inspectors for, among other probable violations:
- failing to “adequately describe the notification and communications process with fire, police and other public officials during an emergency.”
- failing to “define which conditions deemed a pipeline unsafe and failing to define “a time period for mitigation of a a pipeline segment that the operator deemed unsafe.”
- failing to “provide additional guidance during the annual inspection of relief valves, particularly the pressure build-up of each relief valve … .”
The June 13 Notice of Amendment represents the third notice of probable violation issued to Spectra by the PHMSA this year.
On April 21, the agency issued Spectra a Notice of Amendment in connection with the gas company’s Preventative and Mitigation Measures and Quality Control, and a Letter of Warning in connection with the firm’s Internal Corrosion Direct Assessment plan.
The issues that led to the Letter of Warning have been resolved, according to the PHMSA. However, the other two cases are still open and pending.
In response to the April 21 Notice of Amendment, Spectra Vice President of Transmission Services Andy Drake acknowledged the probable violations in a May 25, 2011 letter to PHMSA and stated that, “Spectra is not contesting the issues noted in the NoA.”
Drake also requested additional time for Spectra to fully address the probable violations.
Spectra Energy has filed an application with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to run a 30-inch natural gas pipeline, similar in size to the one that exploded in San Bruno, from New Jersey under the Hudson and into Manhattan, where the pipeline will reportedly terminate near the Henry Hudson Greenway and West 14th St.
FERC is expected to issue a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) in the matter sometime in the near future.