March 31, 2013

Pipeline earns high marks from many quarters

Most spills in its 72-year history have been minor, but activists say scrutiny remains 'imperative.'

By Tux Turkel tturkel@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

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Regarding the Portland pipeline, the federal agency has conducted two site-specific inspections, two system-wide inspections and six targeted inspections since 2006. It initiated and resolved five enforcement cases during the period, records show.

The issues raised seem relatively minor. For instance: PHMSA wasn't happy with the way the company was documenting its Liquid Integrity Management program, a federal rule which details how operators must identify and validate the condition of their pipelines. The agency also said the company's management program was inadequate because its procedures failed to include methods that measure effectiveness.

Damon Hill, a spokesman for PHMSA, said these deficiencies were based on reviewing written documents, not a field inspection.

Larry Wilson, the pipeline company's president, said the document was a result of a periodic and routine inspection of the management program, and was not related to spill prevention. After the pipeline company provided additional details about the program, the case was closed.

Environmental activists, however, put little faith in these reviews, which they see as superficial.

"It would be foolhardy for the citizens of Maine to put a lot of trust in PHMSA to ensure actual pipeline safety and prevent a spill," said Dylan Voorhees, clean energy director of the Natural Resources Council of Maine. "They just aren't set up to do that. When the dangers of a spill grow as a result of tar sands, it becomes imperative that there be a fresh environmental review before any project goes forward."

Tux Turkel can be contacted at 791-6462 or

tturkel@pressherald.com

 

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