Clinton wants to boost pipeline safety, stiffen penalties : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

Clinton wants to boost pipeline safety, stiffen penalties


Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) - A proposal by President Clinton would boost safety requirements for pipeline operators, stiffen penalties for violators and give the public more information about pipeline safety and accidents.

The initiative, to be unveiled by Vice President Gore on Tuesday, also would open the door for a greater state role in regulating pipeline construction and investigating pipeline accidents.

"The improvements in this bill assure that pipeline operators are more accountable to the public for the risks they impose," Transportation Secretary Rodney Slater said in a letter accompanying a draft of the proposal.

The proposal creates new requirements for pipeline operators in densely populated regions and in environmentally sensitive areas. Operators would have to conduct internal inspections or "another equally protective method" to periodically determine the strength of lines, and then act to address any flaws.

Operators would need to share maps, manuals and emergency response plans with local communities to better prepare for emergencies. Information about pipeline accidents and safety-related issues would be made available to the public.

Penalties would be increased. Companies that overpressurize a pipeline, causing the line to fail, could face a fine of $500,000, rather than the $25,000 fine under current law.

Details of the administration's plan came as advocates for increased pipeline protection held a conference in Washington, including presentations by victims of pipeline accidents.

Among those who participated were the parents of two children who died following a June 1999 pipeline leak and subsequent explosion in Bellingham, Wash.

"This industry lies, they're arrogant, and they're outrageous," said Frank King, whose 10-year-old son, Wade, died in the Bellingham explosion. "They need to be put under control."

Katherine Dalen spoke of her son, Steven Tsiorvas, "who will be forever 10" after the Bellingham tragedy. She recounted driving home from the shopping mall, seeing the smoke in the sky and thinking, "Please don't let that be my home."

"I saw his charred pants lying in my yard, I saw his melted shoes lying in my yard, and I knew my baby was in trouble," Dalen said.

Conference participants said bills sponsored by Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and Jack Metcalf, R-Wash., are the best hope for safety improvements in the short term.

But lawmakers said the bill's passage will not be easy. Metcalf said he is having a hard time getting colleagues interested in the buried pipelines.

"The phrase out of sight, out of mind, certainly applies when pipelines are concerned," he told the conference.

-- Carl Jenkins (, April 11, 2000

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