Proposed pipeline safety rules signal progress

An editorial from The Herald-Dispatch

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — It has taken several years to respond, but federal safety officials finally have taken a significant step to shore up safety regarding the 300,000 miles of natural gas transmission pipelines in the United States.

A proposal outlined last week by the Department of Transportation includes more stringent inspection and repair requirements for older pipelines and applies them to more rural areas. If those rules had been in place previously, a fiery explosion that tore up I-77 near Sissonville, West Virginia, in December 2012 might have been prevented. Although implemented after the fact in that case and many other explosions in recent years, the proposal should provide more protections to life and property going forward.

The new rules also recognize the large growth in pipes installed in natural gas well fields, and for the first time includes federal regulation of the approximately 70,000 miles of “gathering lines” that transport fuel from gas fields to storage areas or into transmission systems, officials told The Associated Press. That’s more progress for safety, and should provide more assurances for people in West Virginia living near the rapidly growing natural-gas extraction industry in the state.

The huge fireball that occurred near Sissonville, about 15 miles north of Charleston, four years ago melted a stretch of I-77, destroyed three homes and damaged several others. Fortunately, it happened when traffic on the interstate was relatively light, and no one was injured or killed. But that’s not been the case in many other pipeline accidents…

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