Congress To Ponder Flurry Of New Integrity Management Proposals, San Bruno Cause Still Unknown

November 2010, Vol. 65 No. 11

The Feinstein-Boxer Strengthening Pipeline Safety and Enforcement Act of 2010 mandates inspections by “smart pigs” or by other inspection methods certified by the Secretary of Transportation as equally effective at finding corrosion. It also prohibits natural gas pipelines from operating at high pressure if they cannot be inspected using the most effective inspection technology.

Christina Sames, vice president of operations and engineering, the American Gas Association, says the Feinstein/Boxer bill seems to have a preference for pigging. However, it says almost nothing about an issue INGAA's Santa thinks needs to be addressed: upgrading state excavation damage programs, especially provisions requiring diggers to call 800 phone numbers before initiating excavation. Excavation damage to pipelines is the biggest cause of pipeline accidents.

The Lautenberg-Rockefeller Pipeline Transportation Safety Improvement Act of 2010 does have provisions strengthening the current PHMSA grant program which gives money to states to upgrade "call before you dig" programs. Currently, a few states exclude some diggers from their program, such as railroads. Santa thinks those exemptions should be eliminated. The Lautenberg bill does not go that far, nor could it, since PHMSA only has responsibility for gas pipelines, not railroads and some other "diggers" who undertake excavation, such as municipal public works departments.