Pipeline Safety:

Progress Made, but Significant Requirements and Recommendations Not Yet Complete

GAO-01-1075: Published: Sep 28, 2001. Publicly Released: Oct 4, 2001.

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In a May 2000 report on the performance of the Department of Transportation's Office of Pipeline Safety (OPS), GAO found that the number of pipeline accidents rose four percent annually from 1989 to 1998--from 190 in 1989 to 280 in 1998. GAO also found that OPS did not implement 22 statutory requirements and 39 recommendations made by the National Transportation Safety Board. Since GAO's May report, OPS has fully implemented six of the 22 statutory requirements. However, 11 other requirements--including some that are significant and long-standing--have not been fully implemented. The agency does not plan to report on abandoned underwater pipeline facilities--a remaining open requirement--because it believes that insufficient data exists to conduct the study. The Safety Board is encouraged by OPS' recent efforts to improve its responsiveness, but the Board remains concerned about the amount of time OPS has taken to implement recommendations. OPS has the lowest rate of any transportation agency in implementing the Board's recommendations.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), formerly OPS, originally planned to send a letter to Congress stating the reasons that the congressionally mandated study on underwater abandoned pipeline would not be prepared. However, the agency later determined that a report previously prepared on this issue could be updated to respond to the congressional mandate. In March 2005, PHMSA updated the report on the agency's evaluation of underwater abandoned pipeline facilities and began circulating the report for DOT approval. In January 2006, the report was approved for release to congressional committees.

    Recommendation: If the Department of Transportation believes that it cannot complete a report to Congress on underwater abandoned pipeline facilities, the Secretary of Transportation should direct the Office of Pipeline Safety to advise Congress of the reasons why it is unable to complete this study and, if appropriate, ask Congress to relieve it of this responsibility.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation


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