One year ago, in the wake of devastating pipeline incidents that resulted in 22 deaths in San Bruno, California, and Allentown, Pennsylvania, DOT issued a call to action to the nation’s pipeline operators. We challenged them to identify pipelines that need to be rehabilitated, repaired or replaced to ensure the safe and reliable delivery of our energy resources.
We have more than 2.5 million miles of pipeline in this country, and many of those miles run directly beneath communities like San Bruno and Allentown, communities like yours. Urging industry leaders and state and federal officials to assess the risks in this critical infrastructure was the right thing to do.
Since that call to action, we’ve made progress on improving pipeline safety in America, but we still have work to do.
I'm proud that our Pipelines and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) has taken this call to action very seriously with stepped up pipeline safety oversight activities, increased enforcement actions, proposed data collection initiatives, and aggressive public education efforts. PHMSA has also hosted numerous pipeline safety workshops for operators and emergency responders during the past 12 months, with more than 2,500 participating either in person or online via PHMSA's consistent use of webstreaming to increase access.
But we can do even more. As PHMSA Administrator Cynthia Quarterman said, "We are improving pipeline safety through enforcement and data collection initiatives, but communication and education are also key components.”
Fortunately, the President’s Fiscal Year 2013 budget request includes a 60 percent increase in funding above Fiscal Year 2012 for pipeline safety in America. These dollars will help improve safety and increase accountability by hiring more inspectors, increasing coordination with states, and educating the public.
One way everyone can know what's below is by looking at the State Pipeline Profiles available on the PHMSA website. This is a terrific resource, and I think you'll be surprised to learn about the level of activity occurring in your state right beneath your feet.
Of course, another way we can all do our part for pipeline safety is to call 8-1-1 before you dig. This is the free, nationwide hotline that anyone can use when preparing to put shovel, hoe, or front-end loader to dirt. Every year, improper excavation results in one-third of all pipeline accidents. So, whether you're a home gardener or a professional contractor, it doesn't matter--make the call to 8-1-1 before any dirt moves.
As Administrator Quarterman said, “The bottom line is that pipeline accidents can be prevented if we continue to make sure the public has access to information and resources like 811 and the state pipeline profiles.”
Now, the push for pipeline safety is personal for me. I have visited Allentown and San Bruno, and I've met with families who lost loved ones. While pipeline incidents are rare, even one is too many.
Let's cement the progress we've made by working together to continue improving pipeline safety.