Calls on pipeline safety agency to release all information to Congress, American public


Washington, D.C. (August 5, 2015) – Today, Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), a member of the Environment and Public Works and Commerce, Science and Transportation Committees, released the following statement regarding the upward revision of the size of Plains Pipeline’s spill in Santa Barbara, California in May. While the Plains Pipeline spill was initially estimated at 101,000 gallons, it has now been revised upwards to nearly 143,000 gallons.


“The revelation that the Santa Barbara pipeline spill was much larger than originally thought underscores the importance of our pipeline safety agency providing complete information to Congress and the American people. Unfortunately, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration's operational culture has been to withhold information from the American people and Congress. I look forward to working with PHMSA and the agency’s new leadership to resolve these issues and ensure that Congress can conduct proper oversight of the safety of our nation’s pipelines. It is imperative that this agency charged with protecting public health and the environment from devastating pipeline spills is accountable to the public.”


Earlier this year, Senator Markey joined with California Senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein in questioning PHMSA and the pipeline operator, Plains Pipeline, about the Santa Barbara spill. In response, PHMSA provided a version of the company’s spill response plan that redacted key information, including the size of a worst-case scenario oil spill. However, a more complete version of the spill response plan was obtained by news outlets.That worst case scenario discharge of 167,000 gallons estimated by Plains in its spill response plan is only 24,000 gallons more than the new revised estimate of the size of the spill. Then-Rep. Markey also led the Congressional investigation into ExxonMobil’s 2013 pipeline spill in Mayflower, Arkansas. In both instances, PHMSA refused to provide unredacted versions of the companies’ spill response plans to Congress.