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Public Service Commission ready to inspect oil pipelines

[ Return To Senator Roy Dyson's Newsletter ]

Posted on March 09, 2001:

Senator Dyson It is my belief that barring something unforseen action in the House of Delegates, my bill to give the Maryland Public Service Commission the authority to regularly inspect pipelines will pass and be signed into law by Governor Glendening. The measure has already been unanimously voted out of the Senate.

If the bill passes, the PSC is ready to begin inspecting Marylandís instrastate hazardous liquid pipelines within months. These pipelines will be inspected at least once a year. Already, the PSC inspects natural gas pipelines in Maryland so it is no stranger to conducting these regular tests to make sure pipelines are safe.

Currently, there are two hazardous liquid pipelines in Maryland. The one that ruptured causing more than 130,000 gallons of oil to be leaked into the Patuxent River on April 7 runs from Piney Point, splitting in Riceville and ending at Morgantown in Charles County and Chalk Point. The total length of this pipeline is 52 miles long. The other pipeline in Baltimore City is only two miles long. The pipeline that runs through our area was last inspected in 1997.

I am very pleased that this billís passage is likely because through the process of the investigation of the spill at Chalk Point, it became clear that the federal government does not have enough personnel to adequately inspect hazardous liquid pipelines. That is why my pipeline safety bill had the backing of the United States Department of Transportationís National Transportation Safety Board.

Officials with the PSC are prepared to conduct these inspections regularly. My bill authorizes the PSC to hire an engineer who will be trained in pipeline safety through rigid programs conducted by the federal government. This engineer will be fully qualified to inspect the stateís two pipelines by the time the bill goes into effect on October 1 of this year.

With Maryland taking over the inspection authority, the United States Department of Transportation will reimburses the state 50 percent for the cost of these inspections. It already reimburses Maryland 45 percent for its natural gas pipeline program.

In accordance with federal law, the PSC will also be granted the authority to levy fines against individuals who or companies that fail to file the guidelines established by this bill.

This will ensure greater accountability for those who are responsible for these pipelines.

I am not a foe of instrastate pipelines. I still feel they are the safest way to transport hazardous liquid. Certainly itís safer than by boat or truck. Still, as we found out on April 7, these pipelines are fallible. We also found out that a great length of time passed between when the oil first started leaking and when the pipeline was shut down. I believe that regular inspections will prevent this type of negligence from happening again. The inspection process will include not just the pipeline, but also the day-to-day operations of the line and those who are responsible for it.

[ Return To Senator Roy Dyson's Newsletter ]

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