Saturday, July 6, 2013

Federal Agency Relies on Operator Self-Reporting on Pipeline "Incidents"

Would the leak in this photo qualify as an incident under federal regulations?  This photo shows a leak discovered by hikers in West Virginia in a wildlife management area.  The tubes in the stream are supposed to collect the "seepage."

The PHMSA relies on pipeline operators to report incidents of pipeline leaks.  Not only does the current system rely on the fox to report hen hen house injuries, deaths, and property damage, it also also allows for many incidents deemed less significant to go unreported.  Codified Federal Regulations define the term "incident" as follows.

Incident means any of the following events:
(1) An event that involves a release of gas from a pipeline, or of liquefied natural gas, liquefied petroleum gas, refrigerant gas, or gas from an LNG facility, and that results in one or more of the following consequences:
(i) A death, or personal injury necessitating in-patient hospitalization;
(ii) Estimated property damage of $50,000 or more, including loss to the operator and others, or both, but excluding cost of gas lost;
(iii) Unintentional estimated gas loss of three million cubic feet or more;
(2) An event that results in an emergency shutdown of an LNG facility. Activation of an emergency shutdown system for reasons other than an actual emergency does not constitute an incident.
(3) An event that is significant in the judgment of the operator, even though it did not meet the criteria of paragraphs (1) or (2) of this definition.