Increasing Number Of U.S. Oil Spills Prompt Tougher Pipeline Rules

tar sands oil spill photo by ThinkProgress.org  Increasing Number Of U.S. Oil Spills Prompt Tougher Pipeline RulesA surge of oil spills connected to pipeline disasters in the United States in recent years has sparked new life into a long-delayed federal safety rule.

The Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) has not disclosed the details of the rule, but it is expected to be released publicly within the next seven to 10 days. The White House cleared the rule last week, five years after regulators and legislators first began work on it.

“The proposed regulations will result in critical safety improvements, and we hope they will spark a robust dialogue moving forward about pipeline safety in the United States,” said Marie Therese Dominguez, PHMSA head.

According to the Associated Press, much of the proposed bill is said to deal with environmentally sensitive areas, such as rivers and lakes, and places that are densely populated. In such areas, the impact of spilled oil or other hazardous materials can be considerably greater, making the need for extra safety measures especially urgent.

About 2.6 million miles of pipeline – enough to circle the earth more than 100 times — transport oil and other hazardous fluids below and above the ground in the U.S. A recent boom in domestic oil and gas production has created the need for more and more miles of pipeline.

But all that development has come at a huge cost. Just in 2014, 445 pipeline breaches spilled nearly two million gallons of fuel and other toxic liquids – an increase of 30 percent over rates prior to 2008, the year that the fracking boom started.

A 63,000-gallon oil ExxonMobil spill that polluted the Yellowstone River near Billings, Mont., and a Bridger Pipeline spill that flooded the same river with 30,000 gallons of fuel in January are two recent disasters that underscore the need for improved safety.

In May, a Plains All American Pipeline breach released more than 100,000 gallons of oil in California, much of which entered the Pacific Ocean and polluted the beaches near Santa Barbara.

In Michigan, crews continue to clean up an Enbridge oil spill that dumped 1,100,000 gallons of highly toxic diluted bitumen (dilbit) oil into the Kalamazoo River in 2010 – the largest inland oil spill in U.S. history. Diluted bitumen is dense and sticky and nearly impossible to clean once it is released into the environment.

At the same time the nation’s biggest inland spill was occurring, hundreds of workers were trying to contain the largest offshore spill in U.S. history, caused by the explosion of BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico.

Source: Associated Press