Safety Agency Cracks Down on Crude, Petroleum Pipeline Spills

The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) is cracking down on smaller violations in the crude oil, petroleum, and hazardous liquid industries to combat a slow rise in the number of pipeline accidents.

High-profile incidents that have spilled about a million gallons of crude oil have led PHMSA to scrutinize hazardous liquid pipelines more closely, lawyers say. The agency is asking more companies that operate those types of pipelines—including Anadarko Petroleum, Sunoco, Frontier Energy, and Dakota Midstream—to fill gaps in their safety procedures.

Companies that handle hazardous liquids, such as petroleum products, crude oil, anhydrous ammonia, biofuel, and carbon dioxide, are getting more letters and notices from the agency than gas and liquid natural gas companies are, data show.

“The focus on warning letters and notices of amendment is kind of like ‘an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,’ ” Indianapolis-based Paul Drucker, leader of Barnes & Thornburg’s pipeline practice team, said. “They’re trying to correct smaller problems before they turn into big problems.”

The American Petroleum Institute, Anadarko Petroleum, Sunoco, Frontier Energy and Dakota Midstream didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

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