Damage Prevention

Recent pipeline accidents, such as those in Allentown, Pa., and San Bruno, Calif., have raised concerns about pipeline safety and the consequences of the aging natural gas infrastructure in the United States. Currently, there are more than 2.4 million miles of natural gas pipeline infrastructure in the country that supplies 177 million Americans with natural gas. Natural gas utilities spend more than $19 billion annually to help enhance the safety of the natural gas distribution system and to upgrade and expand service.

April is National Pipeline Safe Digging Month, and yesterday the Administrator of the Pipeline and Hazardous Material Safety Administration (PHMSA) blogged about the importance of dialing 811 - the National Call Before You Dig Number - before performing any excavation work. Although many not realize it, excavation damage is the number one cause for serious pipeline accidents that impact not only the environment but public safety as well.

Every day, a network of more than 2 million miles of pipelines quietly supplies the United States with critical energy products to heat and cool our homes, drive our cars to work or fly across the country for a family vacation.  Although pipeline accidents are rare, their consequences can be very harmful and sometimes fatal. States are tasked with supplying the overwhelming number of inspectors to keep this huge and expansive network operating safely to protect the public and the environment.

States have a significant role to play in regulating the safety of the nation's enormous pipeline network. Policymakers at the state level should be aware that additional federal scrutiny of damage prevention programs is likely to increase from congressional directives and increasing safety expectations from the general public.