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UPDATE: Pipeline Safety Report Released

By: Brooks Jarosz, The Associated Press Email
By: Brooks Jarosz, The Associated Press Email

UPDATE 1/23/13 @ 5:40 p.m.
KANAWHA COUNTY, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- A report released on pipeline safety says companies should do more to minimize the risk of leaks and ruptures and develop an effective response plan.

The U.S. Government Accountability Office has spent more than a year investigating what's needed to improve emergency response.

The report comes a month after a 20-inch line owned by NiSource subsidiary Columbia Gas Transmission ruptured in Sissonville, triggering a massive fire. Four homes were destroyed and an 800-foot section of Interstate 77 was charred and melted. No one was seriously injured.

The GAO says data currently collected by the Department of Transportation's Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) doesn't require operators to fill out certain time-related fields.

Federal investigators say it took Columbia Gas Transmission more than an hour to manually shut off the gas that fueled the fire.

According to the GAO, companies must perform periodic external monitoring of all pipelines, including aerial patrols or ground inspections. In addition, regular internal monitoring of pressure flows is required.

National Transportation and Safety Board investigators say no alarms sounded in a gas line control center when the Sissonville pipeline exploded. They say there was a pressure drop in the line about the time of the blast.

The GAO says there are opportunities to improve response time, beginning with more detailed and accurate data collection practices. Right now, companies are not required to fill out time-related fields when inspecting a pipeline or responding to an emergency.

In high population areas, the PHMSA makes recommendations for installation of automated valves. The report breaks down and considers the pros and cons of the automated values.

Those without automated vales are controlled with a wheel crank or a push button actuator.

Emergency managers tell WSAZ.com the pipeline that exploded in Sissonville did not have automated valves.

According to the GAO, automated valves only decrease the number of fatalities and injuries in an emergency situation. However, automated valves could accidentally close and cause customers to be without gas.

Another concern is cost to install the automated valves. Based on records collected by the GAO, it costs between $20,000 and nearly $50,000 just to install the equipment. Then, another $65,000 to $200,000 is required for the installation of the shut off valves by a contractor.

The pipeline in Sissonville was connected to a compressor station that's owned by Columbia Gas Transmission, according to the NTSB.

Investigators say after examining the pipe near the blast site they found it was only 30 percent as thick as it should have been. They are not sure how it got that way.

WSAZ.com contacted NiSource and Columbia gas for comment Wednesday, but so far no calls have been returned. We will keep trying.

Below is a link to the actual report.

Keep clicking WSAZ.com for the latest information.



UPDATE 1/23/13 @ 11:40 a.m.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) -- A congressional watchdog agency says federal regulators must improve the data collected on how quickly natural gas transmission pipeline operators respond to accidents.

The U.S. Government Accountability Office issued the report on Wednesday. The GAO says data currently collected by the Department of Transportation's Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration doesn't require operators to fill out certain time-related fields.

The report comes a month after a 20-inch line owned by NiSource subsidiary Columbia Gas Transmission ruptured in West Virginia, triggering a massive fire. The Dec. 11 inferno destroyed four homes and charred a section of Interstate 77. No one was seriously injured.

Federal investigators say it took Columbia Gas Transmission more than an hour to manually shut off the gas that fueled the fire.



ORIGINAL STORY
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) -- A congressional watchdog agency is set to release a report on the ability of pipeline operators to respond to gas releases.

The U.S. Government Accountability Office is expected to issue the report on Wednesday.

It comes a month after a 20-inch line owned by NiSource subsidiary Columbia Gas Transmission ruptured in West Virginia, triggering a massive fire. The Dec. 11 inferno destroyed four homes, damaged several others and charred a section of Interstate 77. No one was seriously injured.

U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller has scheduled a hearing of the Senate Commerce Committee that he chairs to look into pipeline safety. The field hearing will be held Jan. 28.


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