A federal watchdog agency says natural-gas pipeline regulations are inadequate and pipeline operators need to be better prepared to protect the public from dangerous pipeline emergencies, according to a report by Nasdaq.com.
The Government Accountability Office (GAO) this week issued a report stating that operators should install automatic shutoff valves or take other measures to ensure they can quickly stop the flow of gas during an emergency, the report sates.
About 2.5 million miles of pipelines containing natural gas or other hazardous materials criss-cross the U.S. The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, which devises safety rules for pipeline operators, doesn't currently have requirements that ensure pipeline operators respond as quickly as possible to a pipeline rupture, the GAO said in a pipeline safety report.
"While the costs of installing automated shutoff valves can range from tens of thousands of dollars to $1 million per valve, automated valves can limit the damage to property and the environment, and in some cases could save lives, the GAO said in the report," Nasdaq reported.
The report states that pipeline operators and their regulators have come under heightened scrutiny following the fatal 2010 explosion of a gas pipeline in San Bruno, Calif., and a fatal 2011 pipeline explosion in Allentown, Pa. More recently, a gas pipeline in Sissonville, W. Va. exploded on Dec. 11, destroying homes and damaging an interstate highway.
It took roughly 1 ½ hours for PG&E workers to manually shut off the flow of gas to the San Bruno pipeline, which didn't have automatic shutoff valves at the time of the rupture, according to federal and state investigations. San Bruno officials have accused PG&E of responding too slowly to the pipeline explosion and of being ill prepared for a pipeline emergency.
The San Bruno pipeline explosion caused a fire that killed eight people, injured 58 others and destroyed or damaged more than 100 homes. The Allentown pipeline blast killed five people and damaged nearly 50 homes, according to local fire authorities.
To read the Nasdaq article, click here.