Earlier this month, US Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood held a press conference in Allentown, PA to announce an initiative by the federal government to repair the nations’ aging pipelines. With more than 2.5 million miles of pipelines in the US, this is no easy undertaking. LaHood called for the owners and operators of the nation’s pipelines to conduct reviews of their pipelines to identify problem areas. LaHood promised the DOT was ready to provide technical assistance in the effort.
Allentown, PA was a particularly poignant choice to announce the initiative, as a natural gas explosion in February of 2011 killed 5 in the small town. While the overall volume of serious explosions related to pipelines has declined over the past 20 years, the numbers of those killed in such accidents have steadily increased since 2008. As LaHood put it, “I want to be able to say to people, when you throw a light switch, you shouldn’t cause an explosion in your front yard.”
In addition to the review of existing pipelines, LaHood has urged Congress to adopt stricter civil fines for pipeline violations. Previously, the maximum penalty was $100,000 per day, LaHood is now calling for fines from $1 million to $2.5 million for some of the more serious violations. The DOT says that the three most common forms of pipeline failure are:
- Pipeline corrosion
- Damage from digging
- Failure of the pipe material or the welds
What do you think? Will the companies that own these pipelines be able to effectively review their entire pipeline operation? How can they counteract corrosion, digging damage, etc.?