Pipelines

On June 20th, the Trans Alaska Pipeline System (TAPS) marks its 35th year of operation. The 800-mile pipeline opened in 1977 after three years of construction when, at that time, it was the single-largest private infrastructure project in the world with an $8 billion price tag.

Yesterday's Christian Science Monitor ran a story that several major cybersecurity attacks on our nation's natural gas pipeline system are underway, based on alerts from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). According to the story, at least three private alerts were sent by DHS to pipeline companies since March 29, that a wave of attacks have been occurred for months and could impact Canadian pipeline companies as well.

A number of factors make the world of refining complicated and complex. The article supplies basic information on how refineries operate, where they are located, and the general economic, regulatory, and policy challenges facing the industry.
 

The Keystone XL Pipeline was designed to bring Canadian crude oil down to the large U.S. refining markets along the Gulf Coast. The project drew intense political opposition from environmental groups over the development of oil sands, while supporters touted its energy security benefits, including much-needed pipeline capacity.

In January 2012, the Obama administration denied the project’s necessary permit to cross the international border citing arbitrary deadlines set by Congress to force a decision. The company backing Keystone XL now has decided to break up the project in two phases, which will allow domestic construction to proceed while it reapplies for a permit needed to cross the international border.

Late last week, Kinder Morgan Energy Partners announced its intention to expand the Trans Mountain Pipeline to 850,000 barrels per day. Currently, the Trans Mountain Pipeline is the only Pacific Coast outlet for Canadian crude oil to reach growing marketplaces in Asia. The news underscores the continued interest by Canadian producers and pipeline companies to search for additional markets for oils sands should US opposition persist in approving the Keystone XL Project.

Nebraska's unicameral legislature overwhelmingly approved legislation by a vote of 44-5 that would allow the state to begin its study to re-route a section of the Keystone XL pipeline that originally ran through the Sandhills region. TransCanada, the company constructing the project, would reimburse the state up to $2 million dollars for its review.

On April 2, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to determine the adequacy of state pipeline damage prevention programs. PHMSA anticipates “[t]he … benefit of this rulemaking action is an increased deterrent to violations of One-Call requirements” by directing any excavation work to first use 811, the National Call Before You Dig Number, before a project begins. Many states have been criticized by industry and environmental groups in having weak damage prevention laws that have little effective enforcement. The move was hailed by the Association of Oil Pipe Lines CEO, Andy Black, "“Liquid pipeline operators support strong damage prevention plans to prevent others excavating near pipelines from exploiting loopholes that can lead to accident or injury.”

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. 
 

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