Pipeline Safety:

Need for a Stronger Federal Effort

CED-78-99: Published: Apr 26, 1978. Publicly Released: Apr 26, 1978.

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A review of the federal pipeline safety program identified a number of significant problems and weaknesses in the program. The Office of Pipeline Safety Operations (OPSO) in the Department of Transportation has regulatory authority for the safe transportation of essentially all gas and hazardous liquids, but it has not fully or effectively exercised this authority.

OPSO has not: (1) issued safety regulations governing all hazardous material pipelines; (2) issued comprehensive federal standards for liquefied natural gas facilities; (3) issued stringent safety standards for the transportation of highly volatile liquids; (4) revised the liquid pipeline safety regulations; or (5) systematically reviewed existing pipeline safety regulations to ensure that they are effective. In addition, OPSO has not provided the states with specific guidance for conducting pipeline safety programs or established minimum program quality criteria for state participation. Improvements are needed by OPSO to ensure operator compliance with established pipeline safety standards. OPSO has not developed an effective data collection and analysis system, and only limited use has been made of data collected in the federal pipeline safety program. OPSO ability to conduct a comprehensive program has been adversely affected by staffing problems and the continued absence of a permanent director.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Transportation should direct OPSO to: (1) issue safety regulations covering all gas and hazardous liquid pipelines; (2) promptly develop and issue more comprehensive standards for liquefied natural gas facilities and more stringent standards for highly volatile liquids; (3) revise existing liquid pipeline regulations to be specific and comprehensive; (4) undertake a systematic and thorough review of all federal pipeline safety regulations; (5) expedite current efforts to develop guidance for states in conducting adequate inspection and enforcement programs; (6) establish minimum program quality criteria for state participation in the federal gas pipeline safety program; (7) conduct adequate operator compliance inspections; (8) conduct a more active enforcement program against operators who do not comply with established safety standards; and (9) develop a more comprehensive and accurate data system.

    Agency Affected:


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