Feds scrutinize Donner pipeline owner
TRUCKEE – The federal government last week demanded pipeline owner Kinder Morgan Energy Partners change its policies, which environmental officials say have contributed to recent fuel spill incidents, including one on Donner Summit.
The action was an unusual measure, because it addressed 3,900 miles of pipeline across the Pacific Northwest, said Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration spokesman Damon Hill.
“This is out of the ordinary,” Hill said. “We took this action because we wanted to get the operator to focus on exactly what could be going wrong.”
Usually the administration issues corrective action orders on a single pipeline segment, totaling less than 60 miles, said Hill.
The order requires the company to analyze recent incidents, contract a third party to review operations and procedures, and restructure its pipeline inspection program. If Kinder Morgan fails to respond to the order with a revised plan to manage its pipelines they can be fined up to $100,000 per day, according to the Pipeline and Hazardous Material Safety Administration, a division of the U.S. Department of Transportation.
Since January 2003, there have been 44 accidents on Kinder Morgan pipelines. In 14 of these, the spill or leak resulted in more than five barrels of fuel spreading into the surrounding area.
“This is not normal for an operator to have so many incidents in such a short amount of time,” said Hill.
The administration will continue to scrutinize Kinder Morgan’s operations in the coming months, officials said.
“Our investigations into these incidents identified inadequacies in Kinder Morgan’s interpretation of in-line inspection information to evaluate and repair their pipeline systems,” said Stacey Gerard, safety officer with the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, in a written statement.