PHMSA: Stakeholder Communications

PHMSA: Stakeholder Communications.

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Pipeline Safety Connects Us All

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) Office of Pipeline Safety (OPS) is the federal safety authority for ensuring the safe, reliable, and environmentally sound operations of our nation’s pipeline transportation system. An important component of OPS’s mission is to promote pipeline safety communication and education.

Pipeline safety is a responsibility shared by all stakeholders. Community and pipeline safety is improved through active stakeholder participation, especially with regard to public awareness, damage prevention, risk-informed land use planning, and emergency management efforts.

2012 Leak Detection Study – Document –

2012 Leak Detection Study – Document –

Watchdog Report Finds Pipeline Regulators Spent More Time With Industry Than On Oil Spills

Watchdog Report Finds Pipeline Regulators Spent More Time With Industry Than On Oil Spills.


Full report:

America’s Dangerous Pipelines

America’s Dangerous Pipelines.

Millennium Pipeline Safety Record

Shams Harpur shared the following information at the Stop the I 81 pipeline meeting last night in Cortland.  sc
Millennium Past Incidents (Shams Harpur)


This document is meant to give those working against Millennium 81 N/S a list of prior incidents and pipeline accidents specifically related to Millennium Pipeline Company (MPC) and Columbia Gas Transmission (the company that operates Millennium Pipeline). The major player in Millennium Pipeline Co, as Gale pointed out, is NiSource, owner of both CGT and major stakeholder of MPC. Looking at prior incidents at Millennium Pipeline itself, as well as the parent companies operating the proposed 81 pipeline will give us vital information about the safety and track record of these companies. Such information can be very effective when reaching out to both landowners and the general public.


As an aside, an 2010 article dealing with the infamous San Bruno explosion and pipeline safety should be a must read for everyone looking through this document, and for those doing outreach to landowners. It frames questions about pipeline safety and regulation in a very effective manner.,0


Millennium Pipeline Co.


To date, the existing E/W Millennium pipeline has had one major incident. In 2011, Millennium Pipeline Co. was cited by PHMSA (a federal regulatory agency) for a leak resulting from a faulty weld. The section of pipe with the faulty weld was placed aside due to failing safety tests, yet was installed anyway. The leak occurred in the Town of Owego (Tioga County), in a remote area under a creek bed. According to PHMSA’s citation, 1,328 million cubic feet of gas was released. No injuries, fatalities, or property damage.
However, also included in the citation were concerns about at least two other faulty welds that were installed without repairs or adequate testing. Also, Columbia Gas Transmission was could not  supply safety records on other suspect welds on the Millennium pipeline. Quoting PHMSA’s report “These issues and the inconsistencies in NDT [non-destructive testing] documentation raise concerns as to the integrity of other welds throughout the Millennium Pipeline System”.
According to an pipeline safety expert quoted in Industrial Safety and Security Source, “not producing records on a relatively new pipeline indicates that something gone wrong here – seriously wrong”.  The same expert, was paraphrased in ProPublica, “Richard Kuprewicz, a pipeline safety expert and consultant, said an explosion on the line could be significantly larger than the one that killed eight people in San Bruno, Calif., in September because the Millennium operates at more than double the pressure, even after the recent reduction”. (The San Bruno explosion was an explosion of a high-pressure transmission line which killed 8 people. The proposed N/S Millennium line is a transmission line)




Industrial Safety and Security Source:



CGT has also been cited by PHSMA for other safety violations during an inspection period from July 2008 and August 2010. These inspections took place at Millennium Facilities in Binghamton, New York and Port Jervis Operating Center, New York. During the inspection period, PHSMA found 6 items of violations. These violations included not inspecting the pipeline for external corrosion within time limits; CGT did not have the required cathodic protection installed on the pipeline in three separate sections, the largest of which ran for 67 miles from Hancock to Tuxedo. The cathodic protection system is required to be installed within one year from when the pipeline is constructed. The lines inspected went into service between 2-3 years before the inspectors cited CGT for non-compliance. Three CGT compressor units at the Sparrowbush open air compressor station are unable to automatically shut off fuel and vent their manifolds, violating pipeline safety laws. CGT failed to follow its own construction specifications, and CGT’s bending and handling techniques resulted in damaged pipe coating.
Pipe coatings on portions of a 186 mile section from Ramapo, NY to Corning, NY were found by inspectors in2008 to be damaged. This citation from PHMSA was sent to CGT in 2012. The same Ramapo-Corning line was also cited by PHSMA in 2008 for not being inspected on installation, in violation of pipeline safety law. During a “jeeping” operation, there was no inspector present, even though it is required by law. On July, 18th, during an installation of a section of pipe, CGT told state inspectors there was an installation inspector on site, but when state inspectors searched for the GCT inspector, they could not find them. On July 25th, a second section was found not to have inspectors on site during installation. Foam padding during installation was found by state inspectors to have shifted, and state inspectors had to inform CGT in order for repairs to be made.
    CGT was also cited by state inspectors for not visually inspecting two weld repairs being done. Welding inspectors required by law to be present for the repairs were not present for any step of the repair process.


Columbia Gas Transmission:


Columbia Gas Transmission L.L.C. is a daughter company of NiSource which operates the Millennium Pipeline. A major pipeline operator, CGT operates pipelines NiSource/Columbia Pipeline Group across the nation. In the period between 2002-2013, which is when we have access to PHMSA data, CGT has been cited a total of 45 times for varying enforcement cases. For the 11 years that PHMSA has data on CGT, they have only gone a single year without citations. I urge that everyone look at the PHMSA’s page on CGT, and read the descriptions of different enforcement categories given below the table


For example, the enforcement case when the major leak was detected in the Millennium Pipeline is filed under a Notice of Proposed Safety Order, “PHMSA may issue a Notice of Proposed Safety Order to notify an operator that a particular pipeline facility has a condition or conditions that pose a pipeline integrity risk to public safety, property, or the environment. A Notice of Proposed Safety Order addresses pipeline integrity risks that may not constitute a hazardous facility requiring immediate corrective action (see Corrective Action Order described above), but do need to be addressed over time.” For the four years PHMSA has implemented the Notice of Proposed Safety Order (2010-2013), CGT has been cited twice.


Corrective Action Orders:


Between 2002 and 2013, CGT has been cited 3 Corrective Action Orders. Corrective Action Orders are given when “PHMSA…determines that a particular pipeline represents a serious hazard to life, property, or the environment. They usually address urgent situations arising out of an accident, spill, or other significant, immediate, or imminent safety or environmental concern. In a Corrective Action Order case, PHMSA identifies actions that must be taken by the operator to assure safe operation. These actions may include the shutdown of a pipeline or operation at reduced pressure, physical inspection or testing of the pipeline, repair or replacement of defective pipeline segments, and similar measures”. However, “If PHMSA believes the conditions for a Corrective Action Order case exist, but the Order does not need to be issued expeditiously to prevent likely serious harm to life, property or the environment, the Operator will be given reasonable notice and an opportunity for a hearing before an actual Corrective Action Order is issued.” For the three CAO issued, two were the result of fire or explosion, and the other was a result of an internal inspection which found 800 anomalies with wall loss over 65 percent.


On December 14th 2007, a pipeline operated by CGT exploded near the town of Delhi, Louisiana nearby Interstate 20, killing one person and injuring another. Several farm buildings and equipment nearby was also destroyed by fire. The same pipeline experienced leaks in 2006, and 2001, and another line closeby operated by CGT as part of the same natural gas system leaked in 2000. The leak and explosion were ruled to be caused by external corrosion.



On December 11th, 2012, a pipeline operated by CGT failed near Sissonville, WV, exploded, shooting a 15-ft section of pipe out of the ground. Two flame plumes were reported, destroying three homes, severely damaged another, and inflicted damage to several other homes. Interstate 77 was also damaged and closed. Preliminary conclusions about the causes of the explosion point to wall thinning. Two other pipeline loops were located within 200 ft and 60 ft of the line that exploded. The case is still under investigation.


Probable Violation Cases:

Working Conclusions:


From CGT’s record of serious safety violations during the construction of the current Millennium pipeline show that the company has a very poor safety record. The E/W Millennium pipeline has been in operation for 5 years, yet has been cited at least 7 times for serious safety violations. The lack of complete record-keeping of testing on the part of CGT further points to the attitude towards safety that CGT holds. What should also be kept in mind is the time between PHMSA observing violations and citations being issued, 4 years in the case of the Millennium Probable Violation Report, and 6 months in the case of the Millennium leak.
    In the light of a regulatory environment where gas companies are left to regulate themselves, concerns about the maintenance of 50+ year old pipelines, and the poor safety record of a relatively new Millennium pipeline, we have a lot angles to point to the dangers of allowing pipelines to come through New York.



For Immediate Release: Jul 17, 2013

Contact: Kirsten Stade (202) 265-7337


Scant Oversight or Local Coordination on Pipeline Emergency Response Plans

Washington, DC — The federal pipeline safety agency has not conducted a single surprise exercise for more than eight years to determine whether an operator can execute emergency response plans, according to documents released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). Nor does the agency have a ready account of which emergency response plans it has approved, rejected or changed.

More than 2.5 million miles of pipelines carrying oil, natural gas and high-hazard liquids, honeycomb the U.S. Each year, there are more than 100 “significant” pipeline accidents involving loss of life, injuries, fire and/or major spillage. Recent pipeline spills and explosions have had catastrophic results.

Federal guidelines call for up to 20 unannounced exercises annually to demonstrate an operator’s “ability to respond to a worst case discharge spill event.” Yet in documents obtained in a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) concedes that –

  • It has not conducted any unannounced safety exercise since 2005, when it only conducted one. In the preceding 10 year period, the agency conducted 36 surprise exercises, peaking with 14 in 1997;
  • In the last five years, PHMSA has completed only 26 announced safety reviews, with only one initiated in 2012. More than half of all these reviews (15) occurred in 2011; and
  • The agency cited two exercises in 2004 which were labeled “unknown” because PHMSA had no record on whether they were surprise or scheduled.

“Since there are no surprise safety drills, it should be no surprise when the on-scene response to actual emergencies is lacking,” stated PEER Counsel Kathryn Douglass, who brought the suit that pried the documents loose. “Given PHMSA’s supine posture, pipelines in America are essentially self-regulated.”

Beyond whether operators can carry out their emergency response plans, the adequacy of those plans also remains in question. Months after PEER asked and ultimately sued PHMSA to produce response plans submitted by pipeline operators, the agency still has only been able to provide a handful of the 314 current plans. Moreover, PHMSA cannot identify a single one of the more than 1,000 pipeline response plans it has reviewed during the past five years that it has rejected or amended.

“If it takes PHMSA months to produce copies of emergency response plans, that means communities on the front line have no access to the safety playbook in case of an accident,” Douglass added, noting that in recent major pipeline spills, local emergency response agencies were in the dark both about what was occurring and what the planned response was supposed to include. “We should not have to sue in federal court to obtain pipeline emergency response plans – they should be posted routinely on the web.”


See PMSA list of pipeline safety exercises – unannounced, announced and unknown

Look at federal guidance on unannounced pipeline exercises

Scan the list of all current and archived facility response plans

View PHMSA failure to implement NTSB recommendations following recent disasters