Pipeline Industry Influence Over Safety Agency

“Pipeline operators and their trade organizations shaped, managed and provided sizable funding for numerous safety studies conducted by the federal agency that regulates the industry” according to a Hearst Newspaper investigation. The agency is the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration which is involved in the development of national and state safety rules and inspection procedures for 2.3 million miles of pipelines that carry natural gas and hazardous liquids throughout the United States, many underneath neighborhoods. The investigation “revealed that two-thirds of the 174 safety studies of land-based pipelines that the federal agency has launched in the past decade were largely funded by pipeline operators or organizations they control.” Requirements imposed in 2002 mandate that outside sources pay at least half the cost of the agency’s research, which is unlike any other federal regulatory body. “As a result of that practice, the pipeline industry and its allies enjoy virtual veto power over the direction of the agency’s research program.” Last year, the pipeline safety agency abandoned a critical study because of lack of funding – no pipeline company or trade organization would co-finance the study. The subject of the study was a type of seam weld present in pre-1970 pipelines – a majority of the current inventory (of pipelines) – that is vulnerable to rupture. Houston Chronicle, June 19, 2011.