Saturday, February 24 , 2018, 11:55 pm | Fair 52º

 
 
 
 

Local News

Advice

Santa Barbara Supervisors Will Weigh In on Proposed Pipeline Safety Rule Changes

County staff recommend sending letter of support to plan tightening regulations for oil and gas pipeline oversight

The Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors is being asked to weigh in on proposed federal oversight measure for pipelines, a move that comes six months after the Gaviota Coast suffered a crude-oil spill. 

Although the investigation into the spill continues, up to 142,800 gallons of crude oil flowed onto the coastline after a May 19 spill from a pipeline near Refugio State Beach.

The pipeline, operated by Houston-based Plains All-American, did not have an automatic shut-off valve, unlike other local pipelines, as the result of a previous lawsuit against the county. 

Extensive corrosion was found in the ruptured Line 901, which has been ordered out of service since the incident.

The connecting Plains-operated line, which brings processed oil to refineries, has also been shut down since soon after the spill. 

On Tuesday, supervisors will consider sending a letter supporting changes from the federal oversight agency and may be asking for additional measure, such as the safety valves.

If approved, the letter will be sent to the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, which sent a notice in October that proposed changes were underway to policies around hazardous liquid pipeline safety regulations.

The county’s planning and development and energy and minerals division staff have reviewed the changes, approving of most and suggesting that some don’t go far enough.

The letter’s comments “are intended to strengthen the proposed regulations and ensure greater environmental protection,” county staff wrote.

A proposed change would require certain pipelines to be assessed every 10 years. 

The county letter took issue with this, stating that the timeline should have inspections every three to five years, because “because internal and external pipeline corrosion rates are highly dependent upon the chemical characteristics of the transported liquid and the location of the pipeline.”

Even though the coastal Plains All-American Pipeline Line 901 was on a three-year inspection interval, “in-line inspections still failed to identify a fatal anomaly in the pipeline,” the letter states. 

The regulations also called for new hazardous liquid lines to be designed to include leak detection systems, with a 20-year grace period, but staff recommend that the 20-year timeline is reduced to five years. 

Staff also suggested that pipeline regulations should require emergency flow restricting devices to prevent spills. 

“If the Plains All American Pipeline system had been equipped with an automatic shutdown system, the substantial environmental damage caused by the May 2015 Plains All American Pipeline spill could have been minimized,” the letter states.

Other proposed changes by PHMSA would expand reporting requirements to all reporting requirements to all hazardous liquid gathering pipelines, whether onshore, offshore or currently unregulated.  This change would require safety and condition reports to be submitted on an annual basis.  

Another change would require inspections of pipelines in areas affected by extreme weather, natural disasters or similar events would have to be done within 72 hours. 

The Board of Supervisors will review the proposed changes during the 9 a.m. Tuesday meeting and decide whether to send a letter to PHMSA.

The meeting will be held in the Santa Barbara County Administration Building Board Hearing Room, Fourth Floor, 105 East Anapamu Street in Santa Barbara.

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click here to get started >

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made through PayPal below, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments.

Thank you for your vital support.



Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.

Daily Noozhawk

Subscribe to Noozhawk's A.M. Report, our free e-Bulletin sent out every day at 4:15 a.m. with Noozhawk's top stories, hand-picked by the editors.

Sign Up Now >