Category Archives: DOT

Plains All American to buy terminals for $500M

HOUSTON (AP) — Plains All American Pipeline LP said Wednesday that it will buy rail terminals used to store and transfer crude oil for $500 million to help it prepare for increased U.S. oil production.

Plains operates oil pipelines across the country. By owning the terminals, it will also give the company more control over the oil it moves and allow it to avoid paying storage costs at rented terminals.

The Houston company is buying the terminals from U.S. Development Group, a privately held company that owns crude oil, petrochemical and ethanol terminal and storage centers across the U.S. and Canada.

The deal includes three terminals in the oil country of Texas, Colorado and North Dakota, one rail unloading terminal in Louisiana and another unloading terminal that’s being built near Bakersfield, Calif. Crude oil loading capacity from these terminals is expected to total about 250,000 barrels per day.

The Plains deal comes as U.S. oil production grows. Monthly crude production reached its highest level since 1998 in September, said the Energy Information Administration on Tuesday. Production is growing the fastest in Texas and North Dakota, where two of the acquired terminals are located.

The United States could overtake Saudi Arabia as the world’s biggest producer of crude oil by 2020, driven by high prices and new drilling methods, the International Energy Association said last month.

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President Obama Approves New Natural Gas Pipeline in Brooklyn and Queens

NEW YORK — A new natural gas pipeline is coming to Brooklyn and Queens, after President Barack Obama cleared the way for it to be built on Tuesday.

The pipeline will run beneath Jacob Riis Park in the Rockaways and under Jamaica Bay to Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn, bringing in more natural gas to serve the city’s growing demand, officials said.

The project required federal legislation — and the president’s signature — because it affects the parkland in the Gateway National Recreation Area, which includes Floyd Bennett Field.

Officials expect the project, which does not yet have a timeline, to generate nearly 300 construction jobs and $265 million in construction activity, a key boon for the local economy following Hurricane Sandy, said U.S. Rep. Michael Grimm, who sponsored the legislation that made the pipeline possible.

“This is welcomed news as we seek to rebuild our local economy and our communities,” Grimm said in a statement.

The pipeline will branch off from an existing line that moves natural gas from New Jersey to Long Island, and it will end in a new meter station at Floyd Bennett Field, officials said. The gas pipeline that currently serves that area was built about 50 years ago and is too small to carry all the natural gas the city needs, officials said.

Grimm and other proponents of the plan have promised that the pipeline will not infringe on populated or environmentally fragile areas, but the pipeline has attracted some opposition from local residents and environmental groups, according to reports.

Still, the pipeline’s supporters include the National Park Service, the Regional Plan Association and Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

“Given the destruction of Hurricane Sandy, this law could not come at a more critical time for New York City,” Bloomberg said in a statement. “This pipeline will help us build a stable, clean-energy future for New Yorkers and will ensure the reliability of the city’s future energy needs.”


Tobin Bridge rates ‘fair’ in corrosion reports

State-issued inspection reports released on Friday in the wake of a corroded light fixture tumbling onto a ramp of the Maurice J. Tobin Memorial Bridge show that the 62-year-old structure is in “fair” condition with some “severe” structural deficiencies.

The structure of the bridge, which is currently undergoing a $45 million repainting and rehabilitation, was downgraded from a rating of 6, or “satisfactory”condition, in a 2009 state Department of Transportation inspection report to a 5, or “fair” condition, in its most recent 2011 report.

“We base our inspections on the overall rating of the bridge. While some elements of the structure are showing greater signs of wear … the structure as a whole is sound,” said MassDOT spokeswoman Cyndi Roy. “If the rating were to decrease to a 4 (or poor) we would then begin annual inspections of the bridge, versus the current schedule of every two years — the national standard.”

The area where the bridge deteriorated the most from 2009 and 2011 was in its girders and beams, now rated as having “severe/major deficiency.” Deteriorated and cracked concrete parts of the bridge’s substructure columns also were given the same “severe” rating in both the 2009 and 2011 reports.

“It’s not totally unacceptable to have some level of corrosion, especially given the bridge’s location right on the harbor, where the mist and salt lend to creating some corrosion,” Roy added.

The DOT released the bridge reports after holding a press conference to announce that crews overnight Thursday removed seven spotlights from the bridge after one of the lights — there are total of 18 on the bridge — broke free from a bracket under the Tobin’s upper deck and came crashing down onto an approach ramp to Route 1 in Charlestown.


Corrosion Committee to Explore Effects of Crude to be Transported by Keystone XL

NACE International Logo
Committee will analyze whether diluted bitumen has an increased potential for release compared to other crude oils.

NACE International – The Corrosion Society along with three of its ‘Fellow’ membership will participate on a newly appointed National Academy of Sciences (NAS) committee formed to analyze whether diluted bitumen (dilbit) transported by transmission pipeline has an increased potential for release compared with pipeline transmission of other crude oils. The NACE Fellows are Dr. Brenda J. Little of the Naval Research Laboratory, Dr. Srdjan Nesic of Ohio University and Dr. Joe H. Payer of the University of Akron.

A chief concern about the transport of Canadian crude through the proposed Keystone XL pipeline is a claim that dilbit poses more release risks than other types of crude. In particular, the committee will examine whether there is evidence that dilbit has corrosive or erosive characteristics that elevate its potential for release from transmission pipelines when compared with other crude oils. Should the committee conclude there is no evidence of an increased potential for release, it will report this finding to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) by spring 2013. Alternatively, if the committee finds evidence indicating an increased potential, it will examine the adequacy of PHMSA’s pipeline safety regulations in mitigating any increased risk and report back to PHMSA by the fall of 2013.

“With all of the controversy surrounding Keystone XL, it is very important that a well-qualified team analyzes the risks, if any, of diluted bitumen,” said NACE Executive Director Bob Chalker. “NAS has put together the right group for the job. NACE supports this effort and I will be interested, along with many others, in seeing the final results.”


Pipeline Integrity Management Meeting Set

The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration and the National Association of Pipeline Safety Representatives are jointly sponsoring the public meeting June 27 in Fort Worth, Texas.

A meeting to gauge gas distribution pipeline operators’ readiness for federal and state inspections of their integrity management programs has been set for June 27 in Fort Worth, Texas, by the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration and the National Association of Pipeline Safety Representatives. It is open to the public and will be webcast, according to PHMSA’s announcement.

PHMSA and NAPSR representatives will discuss observations from initial inspections of operators’ implemented integrity management programs.

PHMSA published a final rule in December 2009 setting requirements for ensuring the continued integrity of gas distribution pipelines; it gave operators until Aug. 2, 2011, to implement them. PHMSA and states have conducted some inspections and have many more inspections coming up, the notice says.

The meeting will be held from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. CDT at the OMNI Hotel, 1300 Houston St., Fort Worth, TX 76102-6556; visit to register and for additional information.


Washington Gas ordered to pay six-figure penalty in home explosion case

Washington Gas has agreed to replace copper lines throughout a Chantilly neighborhood and pay Virginia a six-figure penalty stemming from a explosion in 2010, but the settlement will not compensate the homeowner’s whose loss launched the investigation.

In the agreement between the company and the State Corporation Commission, Washington Gas neither admits or denies violating safety standards. The company has been directed to undertake several safety improvements, including the replacement of all copper service lines in the Brookfield Community where the explosion occurred.

As of Dec. 20, 2010, charred debris was all that remained of Thuan Nguyen’s two-story home in the 4300 block of Lees Corner Road. No one was hurt in the explosion as the Nguyen family was out at the time.

A subsequent investigation and report of the accident by the SCC’s Division of Utility & Railroad Safety cited nine alleged violations of the commission’s gas pipeline safety standards against Washington Gas.

The report states the gas service line under Lees Corner Road leading to Nguyen’s home experienced severe corrosion that resulted in a major gas leak.

However, the report also states that alone is not enough to prove culpability for the explosion on the part of Washington Gas because it cannot be proved that a 1-inch diameter gas fuel line that “terminated on the second floor of the [Nguyen] residence” had been properly capped.

According to the report, the end threads of that fuel line were tested after the explosion for the presence of pipe thread sealant; none was found.

Representatives of the SCC and Washington Gas announced the settlement May 24 during a public forum in the neighborhood.

“We turned over every stone we could,” said Massoud Tahamtani, director of SCC’s Division of Utility & Railroad Safety. “What we found is that there were two sources of the potential leak; one under Washington Gas’s control and one under the homeowner’s control.”

According to SCC safety manager Shane Ayers, Washington Gas will be pay a penalty of $154,800 to the state, with an additional $219,700 due if the remedial actions set forth in the order are not met.

“We’ve got over 200 lines to replace in this neighborhood,” said Steve Price, Washington Gas spokesman.

“So if you don’t think the explosion was caused by faulty copper lines, why all this work?” Nguyen asked during the public forum.

“The corrosion rate for copper pipes is greater than other materials like steel,” Stabler replied. “It is rare to see corrosion and we only see two corrosions per year on average. We will take this opportunity to replace older copper lines in this neighborhood. ”



2 of New Jersey’s elected officials call for gas pipeline guidelines to better protect urban areas

Mayor Jerramiah T. Healy and Rep. Albio Sires (D-13th) are calling on the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) to better protect highly-populated urban areas from the explosive threat of natural gas pipelines.

Arguing that PHMSA fails to safeguard densely-packed large urban populations, the officials are specifically demanding that PHMSA adopt new rules regarding the construction and operation of natural gas pipelines.

“As they presently stand, PHMSA pipeline safety regulations fall woefully short of protecting dense urban areas,” said Mayor Healy. “The agency imposes its strictest safety standards on pipelines in cities that have as few as two four-story buildings. In Jersey City, we are home to the state’s five tallest buildings and have hundreds of residential and commercial buildings well above four stories in a small geographic area which is not even contemplated by this regulatory agency.”

Under PHMSA regulations, Healy said, cities as different as Jersey City and Huntsville, Alabama, receive the same consideration for pipeline construction, even though Jersey City’s population is about 20 times larger than Huntsville.

Healy’s plea to PHMSA comes as another federal agency is considering whether to green-light a proposed natural gas pipeline that Texas-based Spectra Energy hopes to build. If approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the proposed pipeline would include 19.8 miles of new and replacement pipes, six new stations, and other related modifications in Linden, Jersey City, and Bayonne. In Jersey City, the underground pipeline route would run through nearly every municipal ward and near such sensitive areas as Jersey City Medical Center, several schools, the Holland Tunnel, the New Jersey Turnpike, and transportation infrastructure near the Jersey City-Hoboken border. Because of the pipeline’s close proximity to sensitive areas, local activists and city officials have argued that a natural gas explosion could cause mass casualties and significantly damage important transportation infrastructure.

To ensure that PHMSA’s regulations better reflect and protect urban areas the city, with the backing of Rep. Sires, has filed a petition asking PHMSA to change its pipeline safety regulations.

The city’s proposed regulatory changes include the addition of new classifications to PHMSA’s rules that reflect cities with mid-rises, high-rises and skyscrapers, and the significant increases in population density that correlate with those structures, and the development of more stringent safety standards to protect large cities.

In response to the city’s request to PHMSA, Spectra spokeswoman Marylee Hanley told the Reporter, “Spectra Energy is committed to building one of the safest natural gas pipelines in North America to help meet New Jersey and New York’s energy demands. The New York-New Jersey Expansion Project meets and often exceeds the highest federal safety requirements. For example, in several places in Jersey City we are exceeding Class 4 code – using HDD’s in the most densely populated areas to bury the pipe up to 180 feet deep, using thicker wall pipe and have added an extra mainline valve.”

But William Schulte, an attorney at Eastern Environmental Law Center who represents Jersey City’s No Gas Pipeline, said, “We often see companies claim that they are being safe and responsible because they are meeting regulatory requirements. But the fact is sometimes we see that the requirements themselves do not adequately protect public safety and welfare.

We commend Jersey City in its efforts to achieve more stringent safety standards for pipelines in ultra-dense urban areas such as Jersey City.”

SOURCE:Hudson Reporter – Healy Sires call for gas pipeline guidelines to better protect urban areas

Anthony Wayne Bridge (Ohio) to close in 2013 for 2 years

Toledo’s Anthony Wayne Bridge will be closed to all traffic for two years, likely to start sometime in 2013, as part of a three-year, $50 million overhaul of the 81-year-old structure by the Ohio Department of Transportation.

The fundamental main-span appearance of the bridge — which carries State Rts. 2, 51, and 65 over the Maumee River and is the last suspension bridge on Ohio’s state highway network — will not change. The first approach span on either side of the suspension spans will be completely replaced during the project with new two-span structures.

Deck replacement on all the other spans is planned, along with joint improvements, cable repairs, and corrosion removal on the bridge’s steel girders, said Theresa Pollick, a department spokesman in Bowling Green. A separate painting contract will be issued after all structural and deck work is done.

The shutdown will be required because of the complete replacement of the two approach spans, Ms. Pollick said.

The spans to be replaced, which have deck-truss designs, are “fracture critical,” meaning that if certain parts of their structures were to break, they lack the backups necessary to prevent a collapse.

“The closure duration is necessary for the amount of work we must do and for the safety of those who travel the bridge during construction,” said Todd Audet, the transportation department’s district deputy director.

As the last suspension bridge on the state system, he said, “it’s important to ODOT to preserve it.”

The Anthony Wayne Bridge — also known locally as the High Level Bridge — gained its distinctive status on Feb. 22 when the transportation agency dynamited the Fort Steuben Bridge over the Ohio River between Steubenville, Ohio, and Weirton, W.Va. No other suspension bridges still standing in Ohio, or across the Ohio River, are part of the state system, the agency said.

The Anthony Wayne bridge last underwent major repairs in 1997 and 1998, when its concrete deck was resurfaced, some steel suspender cables were replaced, its main suspension cables were wrapped with weatherproofing material, and other repairs were made.


PHMSA Proposes New Rule to Increase Enforcement of Pipeline Excavation Programs

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) has proposed new procedures geared to strengthen excavation damage prevention programs and increase penalties for violators.

Excavation damage continues to be a leading cause of all U.S. pipeline failures and is the single greatest threat to the safety, reliability, and integrity of the natural gas distribution system. Excavation activities accounted for more than 25 percent of fatalities resulting from pipeline failures in the U.S. between 2002 and 2011.

“Safety is our top priority,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “It is important for states to have strong and effective enforcement programs as we work together to crack down on violators of these important laws.”

The proposed rule will encourage states to strengthen their excavation damage prevention enforcement programs, provide more protection for underground pipelines, and allow for federal enforcement against violators in cases where state enforcement may not occur. Specifically, it would revise and strengthen the federal Pipeline Safety Regulations by establishing:

  • Criteria and an administrative process to determine the adequacy of a state’s excavation damage prevention law enforcement program;
  • Federal requirements that PHMSA will enforce against excavators in states determined to have inadequate damage prevention enforcement programs; and
  • An enforcement process to impose federal fines and penalties for violations.

These new procedures would also address a congressional directive requiring PHMSA to establish procedures to evaluate state damage prevention enforcement programs. By law, PHMSA must establish these criteria prior to any attempt to conduct federal enforcement proceedings in a state where an excavator damages a pipeline.

“Those who violate damage prevention laws must be held accountable,” said PHMSA Administrator Cynthia Quarterman. “We will continue to work to strengthen damage prevention laws, partner with states to strengthen their enforcement programs, and impose stiffer fines and penalties for these types of pipeline failures.”

For more details about the proposed rule, including comments received from the agency’s Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, visit PHMSA’a website at


Pipeline regulators propose broader public access

The California Public Utilities Commission on Monday proposed opening up public access to most records under the agency’s purview, a dramatic shift that would allow Californians to view documents detailing the safety records of natural-gas pipelines running under their neighborhoods.

The move comes 18 months after the explosion of a Pacific Gas and Electric Co. pipeline in San Bruno that killed eight people, and four months after a Chronicle investigation revealed that the vast majority of documents at the commission are barred from public access, including investigation reports on natural-gas pipeline accidents and safety audits of utilities such as PG&E.

The practice of shielding documents from public view spawned criticism by victims of the explosion and others, and prompted Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, to write a bill requiring such disclosure.

On Monday, Yee called the utilities commission’s proposal a “good first step.”

Terrie Prosper, a spokeswoman for the commission, said the proposed change would improve public access to records. “The public should have the widest possible access to information we possess,” she said.

In a written statement, the commission added that its public access regulations are “outdated and cumbersome, and often delay rather than facilitate access to records requested.”

A 60-page draft resolution, which the five members of the utilities commission will vote on in May, would change the agency’s rules to make documents publicly available unless a utility can show why the records should be hidden from view.

Currently, regulations require a vote of the commission before any unreleased paperwork may be made public – a vote that comes after the panel consults with utilities.

The proposal calls for automatically disclosing the outcomes of safety-related investigations and creating an online index of the commission’s available records and an online “safety portal” that houses all safety-related records.

California law now exempts the utilities commission from the state’s public records law, a contrast to other states, where such documents are routinely available.

Yee said the commission’s announcement is a good starting place but that his proposal, SB1000, should still move forward.

That legislation would repeal a 1951 state law exempting the agency from the state’s Public Records Act unless the commissioners vote to allow public access to specific documents.

“The fact that CPUC is willing to do much more than they are doing right now to be open and transparent – I think that’s a good thing,” Yee said. “But the best step is to support my bill and to pass it.”

To view the proposed regulations, go to: