Category Archives: DOT

U.S. Sen. Bob Casey visits Allentown to call for greater transparency on pipeline safety information

Visiting the site of last year’s massive gas explosion in Allentown, U.S. Sen.Bob Casey, D-Pa., announced he was pushing for Pennsylvania to improve public transparency regarding pipeline safety information.

In a letter he sent today to the chairman of the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission, Casey said improving that transparency will help reduce the amount gas pipeline incidents and help protect state residents.

“The Public Utility Commission should be providing more information to the people of Allentown, the people of the Lehigh Valley, and the people of this Commonwealth,” Casey said.

He made the statement at the gravel lot at 13th and Allen streets, which was the site of several homes before the Feb. 9, 2011, explosion.

Casey cited an independent report by the Pipeline Safety Trust that gave Pennsylvania a score of 0.75 out of 3 in pipeline information transparency, and ranked it 25th among states in that area.

Jennifer Kocher, spokeswoman for the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission, said the report was conducted in November and is “flawed” because it was based in part on areas where the commission has no jurisdiction.

“In general, Pennsylvania is in line with all of the other states when it comes to access to its information on pipeline safety,” Kocher said. “We are continuing to pursue gas safety improvements including the manner in which records are made to the public.”

But Casey said the report found the commission only provides agency staff contact information and information on pipeline regulations.

That means it provides no information on incident data, inspection records, enforcement records or excavation damage data, he said.

Casey sent a letter to Commission Chairman Robert Powelson requesting immediate steps to share more data.

Kocher said some of the information not available on their website can be found on the U.S.Transportation Department’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration website. She also said the commission has ongoing efforts to increase pipeline safety.

“Among other things, we are seeking the placement of a training facility for pipeline safety inspectors here in Pennsylvania to help with the current two-year backlog in training for inspectors,” she said.

Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski joined Casey this morning in urging more transparency.

UGI replaced seven miles of Allentown gas main in 2011 and plans to replace 7.5 miles in 2012, which will leave about 64.5 miles of cast-iron pipe in the city.

UGI spokesman Joe Swope previously said UGI also installed a system in October allowing Allentown and the company to communicate and coordinate more efficiently on infrastructure projects through map-based solutions online.

An investigation into the exact cause of last year’s gas explosion is still ongoing.

Kocher said some information like maps and specific locations of gas pipelines are withheld for homeland security reasons. Casey said he believes a middle ground can be reached where the state is more transparent without creating safety problems.

Pawlowski said that, if certain information could not be provided due to homeland security issues, it could at least be given to city officials and not the public at large.

“Information about water pipelines are public, and if there was a terroristic threat, I’d think it would come from poisoning our water supply rather than the gas pipelines,” he said.

SOURCE: http://www.lehighvalleylive.com/allentown/index.ssf/2012/03/us_sen_bob_casey_visits_allent.html

New Jersey Natural Gas wants to spend $204M on new pipes

New Jersey Natural Gas wants to replace about 343 miles of distribution pipes, old mains that are in danger of corrosion and leaks.

If approved by state regulators, the proposed five-year, $204 million project will occur throughout Monmouth, Ocean and Morris counties. The Wall-based utility sent the proposal to the state Board of Public Utilities on Tuesday.

It will replace cast iron and steel distribution lines that are at least 45 years old, as well as associated lines and meters that are connected to customers’ homes, spokesman Michael Kinney said. The scope of the project accounts for 60 percent of the utility’s aged infrastructure, which totals 570 miles out of more than 7,000 miles of pipe.

The cast iron and steel distribution mains, which either lack or have deteriorated wax or epoxy coatings, were commonly use in the industry prior to 1970, the utility said. They are more susceptible to corrosion and leaks and account for over 95 percent of all leaks found on the system, not accounting damage from others.

After it is approved, the utility will file a request with the BPU in June to raise its base rate each year the program is in effect. The project is estimated to annually raise customers bills $8.44, or 0.7 percent, on average, for the typical residential heating customer using 1,000 therms a year, over the life of the program, the utility said.

The utility is calling the program Safe Acceleration and Facility Enhancement. “Ensuring safe, reliable service for our customers and the communities we serve is the most important thing we do,” said Laurence M. Downes, chairman and chief executive officer of New Jersey Natural Gas.

“With the SAFE program, we are looking to upgrade our older and more susceptible infrastructure to ensure the integrity of our system and best serve our customers,” Downes said.

The locations of specific projects for the first year will be filed with regulators after the program is approved, the utility said. The five-year time frame is meant to minimize the impact on towns, help scheduling and give it the ability to buy materials in bulk, Kinney said. It comes as U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood pushes for increased pipeline safety, Kinney said. The state’s Energy Master Plan also places an emphasis on investment in natural gas infrastructure.

SOURCE: http://www.dailyrecord.com/article/20120320/NJBIZ/303200021/Gas-utility-wants-new-pipes

$67 million requested for pipeline safety

Federal pipeline safety programs would get an extra $67 million and nearly 120 new employees under a proposal President Obama announced Monday that brought cheers from safety advocates pushing to address accidents and growing safety concerns.

The request, part of the president’s $3.8 trillion plan, would almost double the number of enforcement agents nationwide, according to the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration. The increase also would cover improvements from research to accident investigation to information databases, according to an agency news release.

Pennsylvania safety officials and advocates and the national safety group Pipeline Safety Trust all urged Congress to approve the funding, though Republican leaders have said the president’s budget will be dead on arrival there.

Obama’s plan doesn’t provide a comprehensive solution to several key issues as the state’s pipeline system expands to handle the rush of shale gas, several officials said.

“It is helpful, but there are still huge gaps in pipeline safety,” said Myron Arnowitt, Pennsylvania director of Clean Water Action.

The Obama administration has been pushing for safety system upgrades for more than a year in light of deadly explosions in Allentown, Philadelphia and suburban San Francisco.

Pennsylvania has a growing expanse of pipeline from shale gas development and one of the country’s oldest home heating gas transport and distribution systems. Utility and pipeline companies were spending about $800 million annually going into 2011 to beef up the system, in part to meet increasing federal safety demands.

State lawmakers in December passed rules that will allow them to receive federal funding and hire 12 to 15 inspectors. The Public Utility Commission still wants Congress to pass the increase as part of a general need to improve safety, spokeswoman Jennifer Kocher said.

The state has 60,000 miles of pipe, and drillers could add 25,000 miles, according to federal figures and a report from the Nature Conservancy, an Arlington, Va.-based advocacy group. Nationwide, there were 10 pipeline incidents causing six deaths, seven injuries and more than $4.2 million in damage last year, according to the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration’s online database.
SOURCE: http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/news/s_781486.html

Corrosion threat on Ohio bridge deck discovered

Grout packed into bundles of steel cables that compress the Veterans’ Glass City Skyway’s concrete deck sections together may contain elevated levels of salts that would cause those cables to corrode prematurely, the grout’s manufacturer has warned the Ohio Department of Transportation.

The I-280 bridge over the Maumee River, which opened five years ago, is one of several dozen projects across the United States that used grout made at a Marion, Ohio, plant owned by Sika Corp. U.S. in which excessive chloride compounds, traced to cement the plant bought from an unnamed supplier, have been discovered.

Also potentially affected is the Perry Street bridge in Napoleon, which carries State Rt. 108 over the Maumee and was replaced in 2005, the U.S. 33 bridge over the Ohio River between Pomeroy, Ohio, and Mason, W.Va., and as many as eight other smaller bridges in Ohio. Mike Gramza, the planning and engineering administrator at the transportation department’s district office in Bowling Green, said about 30 projects were affected overall.

Mr. Gramza and a Sika spokesman both said last week they are not yet sure that the particular batches of grout used in the Toledo or Napoleon project contained the elevated chlorides. A company alert identified all grout produced in Marion during an unspecified time that ended in March, 2010, when production there stopped.

In the worst case, they said, chloride presence would not create an imminent — or even short-term — safety hazard on the $273 million bridge built between 2002 and 2007.

But there is the possibility, they said, that as the bridge ages, chloride in the grout could cause the cables — known formally as “post-tensioning tendons” — to corrode and fail sooner than they otherwise would.

Samples will be taken within a few months from the Skyway, Mr. Gramza said, for testing “to see if there is a problem or not.” “It’s not an immediate issue,” he said, “But it could impact the life of the structure.”

More than 3 million pounds of grout from five sources was used on the I-280 bridge to seal ducts through which the post-tensioning strands pass. Those cables, which are distinct from the stay cables that support the bridge deck vertically, compress the bridge’s precast concrete segments against each other and also maintain transverse tension to reinforce the structure.

Grout is a mixture of water, cement, and sand that hardens once mixed. Its purpose in post-tensioning tendons is to protect the steel cables from moisture, road salt, and anything else that would cause them to rust.

Mr. Gramza said the transportation department’s specifications for project materials included an 0.08 percent limit on chlorides in the grout, a normal industry standard. But the suspect grout from Marion, he said, had chloride concentrations as high as 0.5 percent.

Chlorides — the most common of which is sodium chloride, otherwise known as table salt — accelerate the corrosive action of water and oxygen on metals such as steel.

So as long as the grout keeps air or water from reaching the post-tensioning tendons, chlorides’ presence in the grout causes no damage.

But over time, it is likely that tiny cracks will develop in the grout. Any air or water that seeps into it through the post-tensioning tendons’ outer ductwork might eventually reach the cables themselves, delivering the grout’s chlorides — plus any salt already in the water from ice control on the bridge — to the cables and initiating the corrosive chemical reaction that creates rust.

Mr. Gramza said that although grout delivered to the project was tested for strength, it was not tested for chemical composition. The transportation department learned of the problem in “late October or early November,” when it was notified by Sika, he said.

Diana Pisciotta, the Sika Corp. spokesman, agreed that grout is not routinely tested for chloride concentration.

She would not elaborate on how the problem came to Sika’s attention, disclose the source of the cement used at the Marion plant, nor comment on any theories Sika may have about how that cement came to be high in chlorides. But she said the company had been forthright in notifying the grout’s users once it identified where material made in Marion had gone before production halted in 2010.

“We at Sika are not happy that this has happened. We have tried to be proactive in reaching out to people. This really is a situation where you want to be aware,” Ms. Pisciotta said. An advisory describing the matter on a Sika company Web site, dated Dec. 6, said the company had, “over the past several months,” been “working aggressively to address reports” of excessive chlorides in SikaGrout 300 PT product made in Marion.

“There is a concern that, depending on the level of elevated chlorides in the grout in installed locations, the risk of corrosion in the tendon strands could increase,” the advisory said. “While this issue could affect the long-term service life of certain infrastructure projects [roads, bridges, etc.] where the impacted grout was used, Sika is unaware of any damage to structures to date arising from this elevated chloride issue.”

In November, 2010, Sika began “an enhanced quality-control testing regime” that includes chloride analysis for SikaGrout 300 PT made at other plants.

With one exception, listed by the company, all of the Marion-produced grout had lot numbers ending with the letter “M” on bags of the material.

Mr. Gramza said detailed records were kept showing the sources of grout used on various areas of the I-280 bridge, so sampling will be limited to areas where Sika’s Marion-made grout was used. Samples will be tested at a transportation department laboratory, a Sika lab, and a third-party location, he said.

“If there is a problem, we will have to investigate it, and evaluate the potential impact on traffic,” he said. The transportation department will consider Sika liable for the cost of any corrective measures, Mr. Gramza said.

Asked Sika’s position on its liability exposure, Ms. Pisciotta responded: “Our intention is to collaborate with them [ODOT] as they review this issue. We will continue the conversation with them as to what the appropriate next steps are.”

The grout problem is at least the fourth significant materials problem with the Skyway.

In 2004, about 184 cubic yards of concrete was removed from the bridge’s central pylon after sample testing determined a particular batch was weaker than required. Later in the project, officials discovered cracks in the plastic coatings on the bridge’s stay cables and ordered them replaced at the supplier’s expense.

And in 2008, a year after the bridge opened to traffic, inspectors discovered that epoxy glue holding the stay cables’ stainless-steel sheaths together was not holding up and the sheaths were slipping. The sheaths were welded together to remedy that problem.

The bridge also has had sporadic problems with ice forming on its pylon and stays during winter storms, then falling off in sheets onto the roadway when the weather warms, but so far this winter, such ice has not been an issue.

SOURCE: http://www.toledoblade.com/local/2012/02/06/Corrosion-threat-on-Skyway-bridge-deck-discovered.html

Gas explosion investigation renders few answers, but corroded pipeline became evident

On Dec. 19, 2010, the home that Thuan Nguyen shared with his family in Chantilly, VA exploded. More than a year later, regulators still have not been able to pinpoint an exact cause for the disaster.

In a November 2011 report, the Virginia State Corporation Commission released disturbing new details about the gas explosion, citing Washington Gas for 11 probable violations. However, they also say they’re unable to determine the exact cause of the decision because the utility did not take required measurements.

In the report, the SCC says that “the gas service line to the home experienced severe corrosion.” The line, installed in 1966, had never been upgraded, and photos in the report show holes and severe corrosion in the lines.

The report also says that the corrosion resulted in a major leak across the street from the home on Lees Corner Drive, but they only concluded that the leak might have caused the explosion. Since Washington Gas didn’t record required leak detection measurements, though, the commission can’t be sure.

The SCC report also says that a customer-owned fuel line that may not have been capped properly could have also caused the explosion. The line in question once led to a gas stove on the second story of the house, but previous owners had put it behind a wall during renovations.

Washington Gas declined to comment because the utility is being sued by the Nguyen’s insurance company. Nguyen, in the meantime, has not been contacted by the company.

“I hear no word from Washington Gas,” he said.

Regardless of cause or blame, residents of the Chantilly neighborhood say they live in fear and believe it could happen again, while all the while, Washington Gas tells them that its investigation into the explosion continues 14 months later.

“Three-quarters of this development is all gas,” Leeds says. “It doesn’t take that long to investigate anything.”

SOURCE: http://www.wjla.com/articles/2012/02/chantilly-house-gas-explosion-investigation-renders-few-answers-72157.html

Industry Challenges Texas Pipeline Ruling

Pipeline companies are asking the Texas Supreme Court to overturn a ruling they say jeopardizes new projects, escalating the battle over the costs of transporting oil and natural gas produced by the energy boom in South Texas.

The industry says its costs are soaring as landowners, bolstered by a recent appellate-court opinion, seek much higher payments for damage to their property values from pipelines and reject what they see as lowball offers from companies. Under Texas law, companies can build pipelines across private property over landowners’ objections, but must pay for use of the land and any damage to the value of the rest of the property.

The dispute in the South Texas case could have ramifications in other states where pipelines are proliferating along with new oil and gas fields, some legal experts say, as lawyers and appraisers build on arguments that have gained traction in court.

A year ago, an appellate court in San Antonio upheld a jury verdict against LaSalle Pipeline LP that awarded $600,000 to the Donnell family of McMullen County, Texas. The award was mostly for the loss of value to an 8,000-acre ranch after LaSalle built a natural-gas pipeline that stretched for four miles across the property.

LaSalle has appealed to the Texas Supreme Court, which has asked for briefs but not yet agreed to hear the case. Another pipeline company filed an amicus brief last month.

In the case, an appraiser hired by the family calculated the loss in value by studying sales of similar properties nearby, and found that those with pipelines sold for 20% less on average than those without pipelines.

A lawyer representing the family declined to comment on the case.

LaSalle didn’t dispute that it should pay for the rights to the 17 affected acres, but it said the pipeline didn’t diminish the value of the overall property at all. The Houston-based company argued that the landowner’s appraiser failed to consider factors besides a pipeline that could affect what people would pay for it, including location, shape and access to water.

LaSalle also maintained the landowner’s appraiser didn’t submit figures to the jury that would support his calculations.

Tom Zabel, a Houston lawyer representing LaSalle and other pipeline companies, said that costs to obtain rights of way have increased fivefold or sixfold in South Texas since the verdict in the Donnell trial.

In the Southwest alone, the Interstate Natural Gas Association of America estimates the region will need 50,100 miles of gathering pipelines, which take gas from wells to processing plants, between 2011 and 2020, 31% of the total nationally.

Energy Transfer Partners LP, a major pipeline operator that filed the amicus brief with the court in support of LaSalle, said that landowners, armed just with the appellate opinion, have argued in more than 20 condemnation hearings that pipelines would reduce their property values by at least 20%. Under state law, local panels hold hearings when pipeline companies sue landowners to obtain rights to build on their property.

Dallas-based Energy Transfer argued that if allowed to stand, the rationale affirmed in the appellate opinion would leave companies unable to “predict the costs associated with their projects and the viability of pipelines.”

Barry Diskin, a professor at Florida State University who has done work for pipeline companies, said he has never seen a study that found a systematic pattern in property values tied to pipelines. “I’ve not seen one, and I’ve looked,” he said.

But just the possibility of a major explosion is enough, in the real world, to depress property values near pipelines, said Marcus Schwartz, a lawyer in Halletsville, Texas, who represents landowners.

SOURCE: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970203436904577153001395050804.html

Obama signs pipeline safety bill

On Tuesday, President Obama signed into law a pipeline safety bill that gained momentum after a string of high-profile incidents, including a deadly Northern California explosion in 2010.

The bill, which passed Congress with rare bipartisan support, doubles the maximum fine for safety violations to $2 million, authorizes more pipeline inspectors and requires automatic shut-off valves on new or replaced pipelines “where economically, technically and operationally feasible.”

It does not include a National Transportation Safety Board recommendation to require such shut-off valves on existing pipelines in heavily populated areas. It took utility workers nearly 95 minutes to manually shut off gas spewing from a pipeline in San Bruno, Calif.

The September 2010 explosion killed eight people, injured dozens and destroyed 38 homes. Other pipeline malfunctions have occurred in Michigan, Montana and Pennsylvania.

The call for automatic shutoff values on existing pipelines has faced industry opposition because of cost. Rep. Jackie Speier, a Democrat who represents San Bruno, has vowed to continue to push for legislation that would require such shut-off valves on existing pipelines in populated areas.

The bill also requires pipeline operators to confirm, through records or testing, the maximum safe operating pressure of older, previously untested pipelines in populated areas.

“This is landmark legislation that provides the regulatory certainty necessary for the pipeline industry to make critical investments and create American jobs,” Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Pa.), who chairs a House subcommittee that oversees pipelines, said in a statement Tuesday.

“Safety is always of the highest priority and this law strengthens current law, fills gaps in existing law where necessary, and focuses on directly responding to recent pipeline incidents with balanced and reasonable policies…”

The Obama administration is considering stronger measures. California has taken steps to strengthen pipeline safety rules, including requiring automatic shut-off valves in vulnerable areas.

SOURCE: http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/nationnow/2012/01/obama-signs-pipeline-safety-bill-.html

Pipeline safety bill clears Congress, headed to president

A pipeline safety bill approved by the Senate on Tuesday night was headed to President Obama for his expected signature.

The measure, which moved through Congress with unusual speed, gained bipartisan support after a number of high-profile accidents around the country, including a pipeline explosion in San Bruno, Calif.,  last year that killed eight people and destroyed 38 homes.

“This bill makes sure pipeline operators know the limits of their pipelines and abide by them, and allows for more inspectors and harsher penalties to enforce the law,” Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said in a statement. “It requires the first-ever pressure testing for older pipelines and requires automatic shut-off valves where feasible. In short, this bill puts in place common-sense safeguards that should have existed years ago.”

Fellow California Sen. Barbara Boxer also praised the legislation. “While still more needs to be done, this bill represents an important step toward ensuring the safety of our communities by increasing pipeline inspections and imposing tougher penalties for safety violations,” she said.

The bill, which passed the House on Monday, would double the maximum fine for safety violations to $2 million, authorize more pipeline inspectors and require automatic shut-off valves on new or replaced pipelines “where economically, technically and operationally feasible.”

But it does not include a National Transportation Safety Board recommendation to require such shut-off valves on existing pipelines in heavily populated areas. Industry groups oppose that idea because of the cost.

SOURCE: http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/nationnow/2011/12/pipeline-safety-bill-clears-congress-headed-to-presidents-desk-.html

Congressional leaders OK tougher pipeline safety rules

Legislation toughening safety rules for the nation’s network of gas pipelines has emerged from a House-Senate conference committee, leading to likely approval in Congress.

The measure, inspired by the 2010 San Bruno disaster and other recent pipeline accidents, would double the maximum fine for safety violations to $2 million and require automatic and remote-controlled shutoff valves “where economically, technically and operationally feasible” on new gas pipelines.

Gas companies nationwide would be required to meet maximum pressure standards on all pipelines, meaning that older pipelines now exempted from high-pressure water tests would have to undergo such inspections. California regulators repealed the so-called grandfather clause in the state after a 1956 pipeline that had never been tested with high-pressure water exploded in San Bruno, killing eight people and destroying 38 homes.

However, the legislation doesn’t go as far as some safety advocates had hoped.

Only newly installed pipelines will be required to have automatic and remote shutoff valves in densely populated areas. The National Transportation Safety Board, along with Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Hillsborough, and California Democratic Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, had urged after the San Bruno disaster that existing lines be retrofitted with such valves.

Automatic shutoff valves became an issue after it took Pacific Gas and Electric Co. workers more than 90 minutes to manually cut the flow of gas after the San Bruno explosion in September 2010.

“In the grand scheme of things, given how things work around here, there are improvements,” said Erin Ryan, an aide to Speier. “As far as we’re concerned, they’re not strong enough, but there are improvements.”

Research efforts at the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration would receive additional money if the bill passes.

But the legislation might also restore industry control over the federal pipeline research program by requiring industry funding.

Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood ordered an end to industry funding and influence in the program in June after a Chronicle investigation.

The Chronicle investigation found that since 2002, two-thirds of the federal agency’s pipeline studies were largely funded by pipeline operators or organizations they control. In some cases, critical studies into issues such as the safety of aging lines were edited by trade organizations that have advocated reduced regulation, the Chronicle found.

The bill in Congress says federal research into pipeline safety must get at least 30 percent funding from “non-federal sources,” which traditionally have been pipeline companies and their trade groups.

The legislation is expected to go to a final vote in the House early this week.
SOURCE: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2011/12/09/MN821MAD7S.DTL#ixzz1gK0ExJ00

Alyeska agrees to $600,000 penalty to settle federal cases

The operator of the trans-Alaska pipeline has reached a settlement with federal regulators to resolve four enforcement cases dating back to 2006.

Under the deal, Alyeska Pipeline Service Co. will pay a civil penalty of $600,000, which represents a considerable savings over the sum of penalties the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration had originally proposed.

Michael Joynor, Alyeska’s senior vice president of operations, and Jeffrey Wiese, PHMSA’s associate administrator for pipeline safety, signed off on the “compromise agreement” on Nov. 15 and 16, respectively.

As part of the deal, Alyeska agreed to drop a federal lawsuit it had filed against the agency challenging a fine imposed in one of the enforcement cases.

Alyeska is the Anchorage-based consortium that runs the 800-mile trans-Alaska oil pipeline on behalf of owners BP, Conoco Phillips, Exxon Mobil, Chevron and Koch Industries.

The seven-page settlement notes that Alyeska and PHMSA agreed the settlement will avoid further administrative proceedings or litigation.

Aside from the $600,000 civil penalty, Alyeska also “must develop and implement a risk-based atmospheric corrosion control program for TAPS,” the trans-Alaska pipeline system, the settlement says. PHMSA, in 2008, said Alyeska had failed to produce records for required atmospheric corrosion inspections in locations such as vaults and below-ground piping corridors where regulators found water. The deal also calls for Alyeska to take other “corrective actions.”

The settlement resolves four enforcement cases that PHMSA had opened against Alyeska in 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009.

All totaled, Alyeska was facing fines of $1,293,800 in the four cases, including $263,000 the company paid in 2010.

Alyeska was facing its largest fine, $817,000, under a case brought in 2007.

PHMSA, in that case, issued Alyeska a notice of probable violation for “at least three pipeline failures of TAPS.”

The alleged failures included a fire in the containment area of a crude oil storage tank at Pump Station 9 in which a portable heater ignited escaping oil vapors; a 900-gallon oil spill at a valve along the pipeline; and a failed operation involving a “scraper pig,” which is a device used to clean the inside of a pipe.

PHMSA said the failures raised “cause for concern regarding the operational integrity of TAPS.”

Among other criticisms, the agency said Alyeska failed to properly report the fire and failed to follow its corporate safety manual, which requires keeping portable industrial heaters at least 25 feet from any oil, gas or electric process facility.

In 2006, PHMSA issued Alyeska a notice of probable violation and, after a hearing held at the company’s request, issued a final order much later, in January 2010, assessing total penalties of $263,000.

PHMSA alleged Alyeska committed two violations of pipeline safety regulations. First, it was too slow to obtain a vendor’s full report on a 2004 pig run to test for corrosion or other hazards on the pipeline, the agency said. Second, Alyeska failed to promptly repair a damaged segment of buried pipe near Mile 546, PHMSA said.

In August 2010, after paying the $263,000, Alyeska sued PHMSA in Alaska federal court, arguing among other things that the fine was excessive.

As a result of the settlement with PHMSA, Alyeska’s lawyers on Nov. 17 filed papers to have the suit dismissed.

In 2008, PHMSA issued a notice of probable violation to Alyeska, proposing a civil penalty of $170,000.

The agency said inspections along the pipeline, including at road crossings, turned up deficiencies in the company’s efforts to prevent corrosion. The case questioned Alyeska’s vigilance in using a corrosion-fighting technique known as cathodic protection, and also faulted the company’s record-keeping.

The fourth case covered under the settlement was brought against Alyeska in April 2009, when PHMSA issued a notice of probable violation to the company with a proposed civil penalty of $43,800.

The notice said that during an inspection, a flange was found to be inadequate for handling surge pressure at Pump Station 3, allowing the release of oil onto the station floor.

Under the settlement, however, PHMSA withdrew the safety allegation regarding the flange.

The $600,000 civil penalty specified under the settlement stems from only two of the four cases involved: the 2007 case and the 2008 case.

“We worked with PHMSA for several months to reach agreement,” Alyeska spokeswoman Michelle Egan told Petroleum News. She said the deal closes “all open matters” with the agency.

Read more: http://www.adn.com/2011/11/26/2190471/alyeska-agrees-to-600000-fine.html#ixzz1eyMWK79T