July 7, 2011: To Pipeline Safety Agency: Unearth Monitoring, Safety Info of Pipelines in Waterways

Dispute over Depth of ExxonMobil Pipeline, Extreme Precipitation from Changing Climate Spark Need for Review, Says Congressman
WASHINGTON (July 7, 2011) –Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) today asked the agency in charge of pipeline safety to report the locations and required depth standards for buried oil and gas pipelines in U.S. waterways. The query follows a dispute over whether the Exxon Silvertip pipeline that ruptured into the Yellowstone River was buried at an appropriate depth.
We need to know if there are any other ticking time bombs buried beneath America’s waterways,” said Rep. Markey, the top Democrat on the Natural Resources Committee and a senior member of the Energy and Commerce Committee. “We cannot allow the Yellowstone spill to just wash away in the tide of time before examining where else this kind of accident could occur in America’s waters.”
The full letter sent to Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) head Cynthia Quarterman is available HERE .
According to PHMSA, following public concern about the depth of the pipeline at the crossing raised last year by the city of Laurel, Montana, ExxonMobil completed a depth-of-cover survey on December 1, 2010. ExxonMobil's completed depth-of-cover survey showed at least five feet of cover at all measured points. However, according to PHMSA, on June 1, 2011, “ExxonMobil reported that there was at least 12 feet of cover” at this river crossing. PHMSA is now requiring Exxon to rebury the Silvertip pipeline under the Yellowstone River at a depth of as much as 25 to 30 feet prior to restarting the line.
In the letter, Rep. Markey asks PHMSA for the number and locations of pipelines buried under U.S. waterways, and how depths are monitored. Rep. Markey also asks for the standards that govern at what depths these pipelines must be buried, and how flooding and increased precipitation from global warming affect the monitoring and safety of the pipelines.
What was once buried can easily be unearthed, especially under the constant flow of a rolling river,” said Rep. Markey. “When you add increased extreme precipitation and worse floods from an over-heated atmosphere, the changing climate could necessitate a change in buried pipeline standards and monitoring.
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