Segment 2 Of 2 Previous Hearing Segment(1)
SPEAKERS CONTENTS INSERTS
Page 11 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 THE BELLINGHAM, WASHINGTON, HAZARDOUS LIQUID PIPELINE INCIDENT
Wednesday, October 27, 1999
House of Representatives, Subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings, Hazardous Materials and Pipeline Transportation, Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, Washington, D.C.
The subcommittee met, pursuant to call, at 10 a.m., in room 2253, Rayburn House Office Building, Hon. Bob Franks [chairman of the subcommittee] Presiding.
Mr. FRANKS. Good morning. The subcommittee will please come to order. It is in the wake of the very tragic events that we meet today. Today's hearing is for the purpose of receiving testimony on the Bellingham, Washington, hazardous liquid pipeline incident that occurred on June 10th of this year. Before we begin, I ask unanimous consent that committee members who are not members of this particular subcommittee be permitted to sit with the subcommittee for the purposes of this hearing. Without objection, so ordered.
As I mentioned, we meet today to review a very tragic incident. Pipeline accidents can have a tremendous impact upon a community. I have witnessed firsthand the devastation caused by a pipeline explosion which occurred in Edison, New Jersey, on March the 23rd, 1994. I would note, however, that in Edison we were not called upon to endure the trauma and the grief caused by the death of members of the community. Although no amount of condolences or explanations can restore the three young lives that perished in this incident, the Bellingham tragedy should serve as a constant reminder of our need to remain vigilant in our duty to ensure the safety and welfare of the communities and the environment affected by the location of these pipelines.
I also want to take this opportunity to commend Congressman Jack Metcalf on his tireless efforts to respond to the needs of the Bellingham community. Congressman Metcalf has made it his mission to personally track this investigation and monitor the efforts to arrive at a full explanation of what happened on June 10th, and I truly appreciate his diligence in this effort.
Page 12 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 Today's hearing is an opportunity to learn the devastation caused by the accident as well as the profound impact it had on the community's interest in the pipeline industry. We will hear firsthand from members of the Bellingham community as well as the United States Senators and our colleagues Congressman Metcalf and Congressman Inslee, and Congressman Metcalf will then join us on the dais following his remarks. Additionally, we will hear from both Federal and State regulators of pipeline concerns as well as the National Transportation Safety Board.
I do wish to emphasize, however, that although I greatly appreciate the Board's participation today, the subcommittee by no means wishes to interfere with the Board's ongoing investigation into this incident. The subcommittee will indeed abide by any parameters the Board considers necessary to place on its testimony to ensure the integrity of the full investigation.
It is now with great pleasure that I recognize the distinguished Ranking Member of the committee Mr. Wise.
Mr. WISE. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Mr. Franks, I greatly appreciate your arranging this hearing at which we can hear firsthand from the citizens of Bellingham, Washington, of their experiences and the reflections on this tragic accident taking place in their community on June the 10th, 1999. Since the accident on that day, we know the pipeline industry, the community, the Department of Transportation, through the Office of Research and Special Programs, the National Transportation Safety Board and relevant State and local agencies have all converged in an attempt to identify structural, operational and management problems and to develop and discuss solutions. The common goal, of course, is never to experience an accident like this one again.
The subcommittee commends the courage and the resolve of the grieving families and the determination of the community, the industry and the government to find answers and solutions. A safer living and working environment is essential.
Page 13 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 I, too, want to join with you in commending Congressman Metcalf in all the efforts he has made. He has certainly worked tirelessly with this subcommittee. I also want to commend Congressman Baird, who has been actively involved as well and brought some members of the community to my office; all those in the Washington delegation who are pressing this relentlessly.
But let me just say this is as sad a hearing in many ways as I have ever been involved with. And no one can ever say enough about the loss that has occurred. The way that we honor the memory of those who have gone on and who died is to make sure that it never happens again, and that is what this subcommittee hearing is about, and hopefully the process by which we authorize the pipeline safety bill in months to come. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. FRANKS. Thank you Mr. Wise.
I am delighted we have been joined by Washington's two distinguished United States Senators. It is very appropriate that they, having had a great interest in this incident, are leading off our testimony today. It is with great pleasure that I welcome both of you.
Ms. MURRAY. Senior Senator.
Mr. FRANKS. Senator Gordon delighted to have you.
Thank you, Senator Murray.
TESTIMONY OF HON. SLADE GORTON, A U.S. SENATOR FROM WASHINGTON
Senator GORTON. Mr. Chairman, on June 10th, 1999, the city of Bellingham was rocked by an explosion when over a quarter million gallons of gasoline leaked from a pipeline and ignited. Three young men died, two of them just boys. You will hear from the father of one of the boys this morning. The explosion and fire destroyed a park and blackened a swath of land more than a mile long. It is sobering to realize that this accident which devastated three families and an entire community's sense of safety could have been far worse if the gasoline had leaked into Whatcom Creek and flowed much further, for Whatcom Creek runs through downtown Bellingham, past residential housing, schools, city hall and a senior center.
Page 14 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 In general, I believe that reflexive legislative responses to single incidents, while sometimes politically attractive, make bad policy, and so I both understand and agree with the subcommittee's desire to narrow the scope of this hearing so as not to address the causes of the accident, which are still under investigation at the National Transportation Safety Board, and not to propose specific changes to Federal law at a time at which there is still so much to be learned.
That said, it would also be irresponsible to do nothing, and I applaud the subcommittee for beginning the necessary review. The events in Bellingham have served as a clarion call to examine thoroughly the operation of Federal law and the Federal agency responsible for pipeline safety. Congress has that opportunity and the absolute responsibility to do this in the context of the reauthorization of the Pipeline Safety Act, which expires next September. Information obtained in this process should also be applied to inform our funding of the relevant government agencies and State incentive programs such as funding for the one-call program to minimize third-party damage from excavation.
As a result of the Bellingham incident, numerous efforts are under way that will inform Congress of the changes we may need to make to Federal law to try to prevent another such tragedy. NTSB has primary responsibility for determining the specific causes of the Bellingham incident, and the Safety Board's conclusions will be instructive to Congress's efforts. Reports being prepared by the Inspector General of the Department of Transportation and the General Accounting Office, on the operation of the Office of Pipeline Safety will also be instructive.
Efforts to recommend improvements in pipeline safety are also being undertaken in Washington State. Staff of my Bellevue, Washington, office has been attending Governor Locke's task force meetings on fuel accident prevention and response, and the task force is preparing a report scheduled to be released by the end of this year. It is likely that the task force will recommend changes to Federal law, including, I expect, limiting the broad Federal preemption of interstate pipelines that currently strictly limit States' and local governments' ability to participate meaningfully in the decisions affecting pipeline safety, including decisions regarding siting.
Page 15 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 Efforts are also under way at the local and community level in Washington State. Tomorrow the city of Sea-Tac in Washington State will host a forum on pipelines for city and county officials, and later today you will hear from a representative of the Bellingham community-based organization, SAFE Bellingham.
The source to which we should perhaps give the greatest deference in recommending changes to our pipeline safety policies, however, is the city of Bellingham and its extraordinary Mayor Mark Asmundson. I have been overwhelmingly impressed with the way in which the mayor has handled emergency response, obtained the advice of well-qualified experts, negotiated with the Olympic Pipeline Company over restoration of the damaged area and resumption of operations, and triggered the State of Washington to thoroughly review its own pipeline safety practices.I urge you to listen to Mayor Asmundson's thoughtful and well-informed comments.
I commend the subcommittee for holding this hearing and thank you for allowing me to speak to you. It is important to acknowledge with this hearing what occurred in Bellingham on June 10th of this year. It is far more important, however, thoughtfully to apply the lessons to be learned from that incident and to make necessary modifications to the Federal laws regulating the operation of pipelines and the Federal agency that oversees those operations.
Our task is just beginning. We all intend to see that the clarion call for Bellingham is heard by the Congress, and I hope to enlist your help in ensuring during the reauthorization of the Pipeline Safety Act that Americans living near pipelines are secure and safe from harm.
Mr. FRANKS. Senator Gorton, thank you very, very much.
TESTIMONY OF HON. PATTY MURRAY, A U.S. SENATOR FROM WASHINGTON
Page 16 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2
Senator MURRAY. Thank you, Chairman Franks and Ranking Minority Member Wise for holding this extremely important hearing. I want to first express my appreciation to all of the panelists, but especially to Mr. Frank King for coming here in what must be a very difficult period to share his personal experience with us today. And we appreciate he and his wife both being here today.
I would also like to commend all of the responding partners, including the Office of Pipeline Safety, the NTSB, the city of Bellingham, and all the Federal and State agencies and the industry who have been involved in this. But I particularly want to thank Transportation Secretary Rodney Slater for his responsiveness and to recognize my colleague Representative Jack Metcalf from the Second District, who really has taken a leadership on this issue, and we appreciate all the work he has done.
I also want to, like Senator Gorton, recognize and thank Mayor Mark Asmundson from Bellingham, who is here with us today. He really has done more to educate all of us and to work to protect the people of Bellingham than anyone I know. I want to recognize and thank him for that work.
Mr. Chairman, I wish we didn't have to be here today. I wish we could be confident that the pipelines that carry hazardous materials through our communities are safe to live and work around. But my view of that safety changed forever on the evening of June 10th, when I stepped off of a plane from Washington, D.C. into the Sea-Tac Airport and my cell phone began ringing almost immediately. It was my sister. She is a teacher at Shuksan Middle School in Bellingham. Her voice was frantic, and she said, Patty, have you heard, our whole world just blew up. The pipeline that runs directly under the parking lot of the school she teaches at blew up, just a block from where she spends every day with a classroom of young kids.
Thankfully the explosion occurred just hours after the last students had left. That explosion rocked the school, and coming just weeks after Columbine, the teachers in the building raced from their classrooms fearing the worst, and instead encountered a nightmare of a different sort, a hailstorm of burning branches that were falling into their school parking lot, singeing their clothes and leaving them shaking with fear. In an instant everyday lives were shattered. And now so many families live with real fears about pipelines they never knew existed 5 months ago.
Page 17 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 On that June 10, a pipeline ruptured, gas leaked out, ignited, and sent a fireball racing 11/2 miles down Whatcom Creek, creating a plume of smoke that rose more than 20,000 feet into the air, and then that explosion killed three young people. It shattered a community and, it inflicted serious environmental damage. Without warning on a quiet summer day, three young people were taken from their families in a tragedy that should never have happened.
When I viewed that damage personally a short time later, I was amazed at the wreckage; 11/2 miles of creekside turned to ashes instantly, a salmon spawning ground that I was to have dedicated a few weeks later gone, neighbors who could not sleep at night, young children who to this very day panic during lightning storms, three families whose lives will never be the same because their children are gone.
Mr. Chairman, none of us can rest easy until we know that our citizens are protected. Today I want to focus on the lessons of the Bellingham tragedy, and I want us to take every step we can to make sure something like this does not happen again.
We have all heard that transporting hazardous liquid by pipeline is the safest and most cost-effective method available; however, I find the track record here unacceptable. Since 1990, there have been at least six releases from pipelines across the country. All of them caused extensive environmental damage costing millions of dollars, and three of them resulted in fatalities. Clearly the status quo is unacceptable.
The NTSB is currently investigating the cause of the explosion, and I understand that we may not have the results in hand when we reauthorize the Office of Pipeline Safety next year. While we wait for that report, I have asked the inspector general at the Department of Transportation to look into the practices and regulations of OPS. Now I am pleased that the inspector general has agreed to undertake this review, and I hope that he will report back to us this year in time to assist us with reauthorization.
Mr. Chairman, I would like to for the record submit a copy of that letter to you.
Page 18 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 [Letter follows:]
There are a few ideas I would like to raise that I think are important as we discuss reauthorizing the Office of Pipeline Safety. First I believe that we need to strengthen the right to know standards because the public should not be kept in the dark when there are problems with our pipelines. I think it is outrageous that under current law the public only has the right to know about pipeline activities during negotiations on easements and right-of-ways. That is not acceptable. These pipelines run through and under our communities, our homes and our schools. Informing the public should be a primary and ongoing priority, not a one-time event. If you live near a pipeline, you should have the right to know the possible hazards, to know where there are problems or changes, and to know the results of any testing.
The victims of the Bellingham tragedy might still with be with us today if their parents had been informed about the pipeline's dangerous potential to rupture. Pipeline companies should have an ongoing process of informing the public when things aren't working correctly and when changes are made to a pipeline.
The second thing we need to do is to make sure that the people who operate and test pipelines have the highest training and certification. That means we need to establish minimum Federal standards of competency, and we need to enforce them. We should train operators and inspectors more thoroughly. We should test them periodically, and they should be certified by the government. We as lawmakers have a public duty to establish minimum Federal standards to protect our constituents.
Mr. Chairman, we also need better testing and monitoring procedures. Too many of the current tests are not reliable. We need new high-tech ways to make sure that our pipelines are safe. That means investing in research and development which will allow us to better detect pipe corrosion both internally and externally. We must also work to make forms of internal detection more reliable and accurate.
Page 19 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 One of the biggest causes of pipeline leaks is third-party damage, which usually occurs when there is construction or other disruptions on or near a pipeline. We should invest in the technology that will tell us when these activities damage a pipeline. I hope we can help prevent third-party damage by promoting the one-call centers that Senator Gorton spoke of, places people can call to find out where pipelines are and what type of difficulties can damage them. Statistics show that many excavators and builders don't call for pipeline information before digging or building. While one-call centers have not worked as well as many people expected, I think they can be an important part of our overall efforts. We should work to improve and finance one-call centers.
We must do more. We need to set Federal standards for leak detection. We need to lower the threshold for reporting spills. We need to establish more periodic Federal testing and inspection of our pipeline. We need to finalize appropriate standards for pipelines in highly populated and environmentally sensitive areas, and we need to address the problem of our aging pipelines.
Senator Gorton and I sit on the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, and I promise to do all I can to work with him and our other colleagues to fight for increased funding for the Office of Pipeline Safety so that it can meet the objectives that we require it to meet.
Mr. Chairman, before I close, let me add that I read in this morning's Seattle Post-Intelligencer that the Department plans to conduct comprehensive review and inspection of all underground pipelines in Washington State. That review will tell us about potential problems before there is another tragedy. It will replace fear of the unknown with accurate scientific knowledge, and I am sure that all residents of Washington State will be pleased to hear this commitment, and I want to applaud the Department for undertaking that comprehensive review.
Page 20 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 In closing let me say this: It should not have taken the deaths of three young people in my State to bring us here today. We need to give the people who live near pipelines a right to know about possible hazards. We need to set government standards to train and certify pipeline operators, inspectors, and we need to invest in the technology that will bring us better tests so we can find and fix problems before another rupture shatters the lives of another community.
Last night, Mr. Chairman, I called my sister in Bellingham and I asked her how her students were doing today. She told me the events of June 10th had forever changed the lives of her kids. The park they used to play in was no longer safe. Their neighborhoods were no longer secure. And they knew that their three friends would not come back. She said, 'my kids have lost their trust.'
Mr. Chairman, we have a responsibility to act to restore that trust, to tell our young people we will do all we can so that every family living near a pipeline will have the piece of mind that they deserve. Thank you.
Mr. FRANKS. Thank you, Senator Murray.
Again, thank you Senator Gorton. Appreciate very much your appearance today.
I would like to now invite our distinguished colleagues Congressman Metcalf and Congressman Inslee to address the subcommittee.
TESTIMONY OF HON. JACK METCALF, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM WASHINGTON
Mr. METCALF. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I would like to extend my deepest gratitude to you for holding this hearing. You and your staff have been gracious and helpful to me since the day of the accident, and I appreciate your efforts. And a sincere thank you to Senator Murray and Senator Gorton for being with us today. I only wish that we had been able to come together to work on a less painful topic.
Page 21 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 Before June 10th, most of the people in my district never gave a second thought to the gas and oil pipelines that runs through the district and through Washington State. The terrible accident in Bellingham has moved pipeline safety to the front page of the newspapers and has energized large numbers of people throughout Washington State to learn all they can about the pipeline, the benefits to the region and any threats they pose to public safety.
I hope that the witnesses assembled here today will be able to shed more light on the events surrounding the Bellingham incident and share what they have learned from that incident. I am especially happy that Mayor Asmundson, Carl Weimer of SAFE Bellingham, and Frank King were able to come to this hearing to share their experiences.
It is has now been over 4 months since the tragedy. While we still do not have all the facts, a significant amount of information has come to light. I have been in close contact with industry, public interest groups, local officials, Federal regulators and constituents and have emerged with significant concerns. For one, the performance of the Federal Office of Pipeline Safety, OPS, has been dismal in some respects. This agency charged with regulating interstate pipelines has ignored repeated recommendations from the National Transportation Safety Board to develop rules for periodic corrosion testing for pipelines and for periodic hydrostatic tests. Further, OPS has disregarded congressional directives to define environmentally sensitive areas and high-density population areas and develop special safety rules for pipelines in those areas. The agency was late, was years late, on a final rule for employee safety training. I hope that the Bellingham disaster has given OPS the impetus to clean up its act.
A number of factors specifically related to the Olympic pipeline also trouble me. Almost all of the pipe along the 400-mile line is over 30 years old. Natural wear and tear will weaken even the strongest pipe over long periods of time. The pipeline of this age needs to be tested periodically both with water pressure and with smart pigs, that is internal inspection devices, to make sure it can still handle the load it is asked to carry.
Page 22 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 Last month during required hydrostatic tests performed in Bellingham by Olympic, a portion of the pipeline burst. OPS then required Olympic to pressure-test all pipe manufactured by the Lone Star Steelby Lone Star Steel, the company that built the ruptured portion of the pipe. This was a good step taken by OPS, but I believe that tests need to be taken further to include the entire Olympic pipeline. After all, a portion of the line that ruptured and exploded on June 10th was made by U.S. Steel, not Lone Star Steel, so it makes little sense to single out Lone Star.
There are thousands of Washington State residents who live along the pipelines. They need to know if any other vulnerable points exist. I hope that OPS will reconsider its decision not to require hydrostatic testing along the length of the pipe.
Again, I would like to thank Chairman Franks sincerely for his willingness to deal with this issue and for all the help he has given to me over the past 4 months. I eagerly await the testimony of the remaining witnesses, and I appreciate the opportunity to have some questions answered today. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. FRANKS. Thank you, Mr. Metcalf.
TESTIMONY OF HON. JAY INSLEE, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM WASHINGTON
Mr. INSLEE. Mr. Chairman, members of the committee, I appreciate you convening this. I think it is something that is imperative that this committee deal with, and I will just tell you a personal perspective, Senator Murray had hers, to when I heard about this. My first reaction was to think of my nephew. I heard that there had been some young boys who died. My first thought was my nephew, who lives in Bellingham, and where he was that day. And that personal concern is one that is now transferred to a national concern because I think what I have learned since this tragedy leads me to conclude that we have a long, long ways to go before the people of this country really feel adequately protected in this issue.
Page 23 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 And the reason is that since this tragedy has occurred, in what very, very brief time I have been able to learn about, I have found a rather shocking absence for protection for folks who live within 50 feet of these pipelines. I have found safety training that has not gone on. I have found a lack of notice to neighbors. I found folks who don't understand regulations. I have found an absence of reactions to known anomalies in pipelines that have been found by smart pigs. I have found an unwillingness to do hydrostatic testing where it is warranted.
I guess I am just here, Mr. Chairman, to say I hope your subcommittee is aggressive in this area, because the fear I had about my nephew was a real one, and I think we bear that instance repeating if this committee does not take some aggressive action in the line that Senator Murray and I know that others have advocated.
And I have been around the halls of State legislative bodies and Congress now for some period of years, and I have not seen, frankly, another industry that has had this lack of protect of neighbors. You know, we wouldn't treat the airline industry with this sort of cavalier attitude, nor the nuclear industry, and yet the damage that can occur is just as great in airline disasters and nuclear disasters as this type of disaster.
One of the things I should note is that the extent of this tragedy was great enough, but if this plume of gasoline had not been ignited when it was and it had gone down the creek further right into downtown Bellingham, we would have had something that this tragedy would have paled in significance of.
So I think I would encourage your committee first off to think of this industry the same as we think of the aviation industry and the nuclear industry. I think that needs to happen. With that in mind, I would like to focus on one area that Congressman Metcalf talked about, and that is hydrostatic tests, because while I believe this company has made steps in the right direction in response to this tragedy, frankly overdue, but they have made some steps to improve their training, they have made some steps to do some of the smart pigs analysis, but they have not agreed and OPS has not ordered, sadly, hydrostatic tests for the length of the 16-inch line, which I think needs to be done to guarantee protection of my citizens in my district.
Page 24 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 By the way this pipeline runs south from Mr. Metcalf's district through the heart of my district.
I would like to focus on that, some of the things I have learned. Basically what I have learned is that the proposed tests now by OPS and the company, the smart pigs have real limitations. They are designed to find metallurgical defects, casting defects, perhaps third-party-caused defects, but they are not designed nor do they do a good job of finding seam or weld defects. This is very important because, as Congressman Metcalf said, there was a hydrostatic test failure in Bellingham that occurred due to a seam failure, and the smart pig tests have a glaring absence of ability to find these kind of defects.
So given the nature of this disaster, given the fact that there was seam failure, and given the fact that there is pre1970 ERW pipe throughout this line in places throughout my district, we believe the citizens of my district deserve a high level of confidence in this line, and the only way for them to have a high level of confidence is to have a high level of testing. And a high level of testing in this instance means you test pre1970 ERW pipe. It is a type of electronic resistance welding, as you know. And so far OPS has ordered only testing on Lone Star pipe. It is a particular type of pipe which has had some system failure.
But we don't think that is enough and I will tell you why. Current regulations would require these pipelines to be testedthis pre1970 ERW pipe are required to be pressure-tested, hydrostatically tested. But since this was, at least according to the records, tested 35 years ago, it wouldn't be required to be tested now. Thirty-five years is too long to wait to do additional hydrostatic testing when you have had a failure, two failures, not one, but two failures, in this line in the last 12 months. One is the incident on June 10th; one in hydrostatic testing.
I am encouraging the company to consider that if they want to be able to regain public confidence, they need to give the public the highest level of confidence they can give, and that is to do a hydrostatic test. You will hear some discussion about the level of pressure to run these tests. You will hear the company and others suggest that that could overstress the pipes. Let me suggest there has got to be a level of pressure that we can run those hydrostatic tests that aren't going to cause damage to the pipe.
Page 25 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 The reason I say that and I know that is that our Federal regs now require them to be tested to a 125 percent of maximum operating pressure. Certainly we can do it to that level of pressure and not cause particular trauma to these pipes. So I would say that with the passage of three decades of this piping in the soil, that it is fair to the people who live within 50 feet, and I have got to tell you I have been out, as you can imaginethis pipeline runs right next to schools in my district. Those folks deserve hydrostatic testing.
In conclusion, I would like to make my comments for the record, if I can put my statement in the record, Mr. Chair. I think this boils down to being a good neighbor. This pipeline is a neighbor, very close neighbor, to people in my district. And when something like Bellingham does happen, and when three decades have gone by since hydrostatic testing has been done, when you have known anomalies that were found by these smart pig tests, which have never been visually inspected even to date, to be a good neighbor means you are going to do these pressure tests up and down the length of this pipe.
I am calling on the company to be a good neighbor to do that. I am calling on OPS to be a good regulator to require it. And lastly, Mr. Chair, I am calling on your subcommittee to really give this industry a review that it needs, and I hope that you will do that. Thank you very much.
Mr. FRANKS. Thank you, Mr. Inslee.
I would like to now welcome our next panel, the Administrator of the Research and Special Programs Administration, the Honorable Kelly Coyner, accompanied by Richard Felder, the Associate Administrator for the Office of Pipeline Safety; and the Chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board, the Honorable James Hall. Mr. Hall will be accompanied by Robert Chipkevich, the Director of the Office of Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety. I would like to welcome all the members of the panel. Good morning.
Page 26 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 TESTIMONY OF KELLEY S. COYNER, ADMINISTRATOR, RESEARCH AND SPECIAL PROGRAMS ADMINISTRATION, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION, ACCOMPANIED BY RICHARD FELDER, ASSOCIATE ADMINISTRATOR FOR PIPELINE SAFETY; AND JAMES HALL, CHAIRMAN, NATIONAL TRANSPORTATION SAFETY BOARD, ACCOMPANIED BY ROBERT CHIPKEVICH, OFFICE OF PIPELINE AND HAZARDOUS MATERIALS SAFETY, ALAN BESHORE, INVESTIGATOR-IN-CHARGE, AND DAN CAMPBELL, MANAGING DIRECTOR, NATIONAL TRANSPORTATION SAFETY BOARD
Ms. COYNER. Thank you, Chairman Franks and Congressman Wise, for inviting me to address the committee today. My name is Kelley Coyner. I am the Administrator of the Research and Special Programs Administration, the parent agency of the Office of Pipeline Safety. I am joined today by Richard Felder, the Associate Administrator for the Office of Pipeline Safety.
I would like to begin today by expressing my condolences to the families who lost their children, Wade, Steven and Liam; to those who were injured or lost their homes; and to the community of Bellingham. I would also like to express my admiration to the families in the community for making sure that such a tragedy doesn't happen again. In the midst of their sorrow, I have seen firsthand each family member find his or her own way to help make sure communities know about pipelines and to make sure that those pipelines operate safely.
Today I would like to briefly summarize the steps that the Department has taken to address the Bellingham incident and, with your permission, submit my full statement for the record.
Following the incident we ordered the shutdown of the entire 16-inch line on the Olympic system. We will not open it until all safety concerns are satisfied. The Department is also a party to the National Transportation Safety Board's investigation, and we will continue to work closely with the National Transportation Safety Board, the United States Department of Justice, the city of Bellingham, and Washington State on their investigations.
Page 27 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 We have ordered the reduction of operating pressure on the entire system. We have required additional internal inspection systemwide and hydrostatic testing of portions of the line. We will test valves along the line and require improvements to them as well as the computerized pressure-controlled system.
We have required additional training for the system's controllers. We have required an assessment of the pipeline's ability to withstand maximum pressure that could build up in the case of a valve closure. We have required additional diagnostic tests on the pressure control system and will insist on any corrections needed based on those results. In addition, we advised other companies about the potential problems with computerized systems and asked them to review their system.
We have already taken enforcement action by shutting down the line. Pending the results of the investigations, we are prepared to take additional actions.
We have also taken important steps to further strengthen our partnership with Washington State. Today I am announcing a comprehensive inspection on inventory of all pipelines within the State of Washington. Within 6 months we along with Washington State will complete a safety profile of all the pipelines. This inspection will give us a snapshot of the safety status of all lines in the State, allow us to identify problems and correct them. The inventory will also better identify places where additional measures are needed to be taken to strengthen protection of the environment and people.
The plan for this review was prepared along with Governor Locke and his State pipeline safety officials. Further, Secretary Slater has also appointed Washington State UTC Commission Chairwoman Marilyn Showalter to serve on our Technical Advisory Committee for Hazardous Liquid Pipelines. This will allow Washington State to directly influence the development of national pipeline safety policy and regulation in accordance with our statute.
While I believe we have a strong regulatory foundation, we continue to look for ways to strengthen our program. Let me touch on the actions we are taking to prevent accidents like Bellingham. First, we will continue to provide strong Federal leadership to address the number one cause of pipeline failures, outside force damage caused by excavation.
Page 28 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 Second, we are addressing the human side of the pipeline safety equation. Since I last appeared before the subcommittee, we finalized the requirement for an operator qualification program. This rule will require that all persons who hold safety-sensitive positions be trained and assessed in their ability to do their jobs. Our rule will result in a well-trained work force, a goal we share with the NTSB.
Third, we are moving forward on expanded regulatory protection of pipelines in highly populated and environmental sensitive areas, including periodic testing, assessing and correcting all forms of damage to the integrity of pipelines. I expect release and notice of proposed rulemaking on this subject at the beginning of next year. I have already directed improvements in our oversight periodic testing regime.
To honor the memories of those who lives were lost, we must insist the pipeline companies are accountable for operating pipelines safely. I commit myself and my agency to do everything in our power to achieve this end. Thank you. And I would be pleased to answer any questions you may have.
Mr. FRANKS. Thank you.
Mr. HALL. Good morning, Mr. Chairman, Ranking Minority Member Congressman Wise and members of the committee. I appreciate this opportunity to appear on behalf of the NTSB and to report on the status of our investigation into the pipeline rupture and fatal fire in Bellingham, Washington, last June.
Last August I viewed the damage in person and discussed the accident with the family members, the city officials and the Olympic representatives. Accidents are devastating to the families, their victims and their community. Most are preventable, but not without a dedicated and persistent effort by industry and regulators to set and enforce high standards.
The members of the committee have been given a packet of visual aids that I hope will clarify my remarks. The first is a map of the Olympic pipeline system in the Northwest. And let me point out that there is 160,000 miles of hazardous liquid pipeline in the United States of America. The first map is of the system of just Olympic pipeline in the Northwest. Preliminary data indicate that shortly before the rupture, a pump at the Woodinville station did not start when commanded. A relief valve at Bayview station should have worked to relieve upstream overpressure. And following failing this, a block valve at Bayview should have closed, as we believe it did.
Page 29 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 Product was pumped into the line at Cherry Point, and the closure of the Bayview block valve would likely have sent a pressure wave back towards Ferndale and Cherry Point.
The rupture occurred midway between Cherry Point and Bayview at the Bellingham water treatment plant, near Whatcom Creek. This next photograph shows graphically the destruction over the path of the creek as it approached the more heavily developed points along its run.
Preliminary data also showed that the rupture occurred well above normal operating pressures, but substantially below full-yield strength for pipe of this design and size, and even below the maximum allowable surge pressure permitted by regulatory standards.
It took several weeks to excavate the ruptured segment, largely because the rupture occurred betweenbeneath an area of extensive water piping. Your packet contains a diagram of the water treatment plant and a picture of the pipe section as initially uncovered.
Preliminary inspection of the ruptured segment indicates external damage to the pipe where the failure is believed to have begun and additional internal damage to the area. You can see from these pictures that there is some evidence of both external as well as internal deformities. Although I need to caution everyone that our understanding of these matters is preliminary, an intensive testing is required before we can be confident about our opinion.
NTSB investigators are pursuing several lines of inquiry that warrant further evaluation. We plan to meticulously test the ruptured pipe segment to determine whether external preexisting damage may have contributed to the rupture and to understand the consequences of repeated seemingly abnormal closures of the Bayview stockthe Bayview station block valve. Records indicate that the valve may have closed 50 or more times in the 6 months after it was installed the previous December. We will examine the reasons for these closures and their possible impact on the upstream pipe's durability.
We are also interested in the functioning of the relief valve at Bayview. This valve needs to be tested to determine if it was capable of operating within specifications. The design and construction of the Bayview facility also needs close attention to determine if the valve was permitted to function correctly in this application.
Page 30 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 Given the extensive overlay of water piping and what appears to be preexisting external damage on the ruptured fragments, we also suspect excavation damage. NTSB will attempt to carefully document and analyze the construction work done to complete the water treatment facility and Olympic's work to evaluate information developed from internal smart pig inspections.
We also want to document and analyze the data available to controllers at the time of the accident and to understand their actions during the accident sequence. They seem to behave been unaware of the rupture for an extended period of time. And restarting a pipeline after a rupture suggests a significant performance failure. We do not know whether this can be traced to training, qualifications, equipment malfunctions, poor design in the computer-based control system or some other undetermined cause.
The NTSB wants to answer all of these questions, and we need to know the answer to them as soon as feasible, but my investigators have been stymied by the prospect of criminal investigations. As you can see from the next chart, a number of our investigative activities have been suspended because most of the central players will not talk to us. And prosecutors have asked that we not test the valve or the pipeline until their concerns regarding evidence preservation can be allayed. We are hopeful, Mr. Chairman, that steps can be taken to clear up the concerns of needed witnesses and the U.S. Attorney'S Office, but for now we simply do not know all we need to know about the pipeline's operations and its level of safety.
In the end it is the Office of Pipeline Safety that must assure itself and the citizens of Bellingham of the reliability of Olympic's facilities and its personnel. Even so, their options are limited. They are rightfully constrained by the potential dangers to people and the environment. But the realities of the demand for fuel are overwhelming, and alternatives are uncertain.
Ultimately RSPA and OPS are answerable for the regulatory context in which this pipeline company operates and which this accident occurred. The National Transportation Safety Board has for many years argued that periodic verification of pipeline integrity must be a requirement of service. Internal inspections done in the Bellingham pipe identified anomalies in the area that ultimately failed, but that inspection data produced no change, and the regulatory processes did not require a correction. OPS's response to our 1987 recommendation is in an unacceptable status.
Page 31 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 Mandatory internal inspection programs are needed, Mr. Chairman, to protect the public and industry alike, and Federal action is long overdue. The same is true of employee qualifications standards. NTSB has had little success in convincing OPS that training and qualifications are areas for Federal oversight, and, again, their response to our recommendations is unacceptable.
We are constantly querying why, Mr. Chairman, that the OPS consistently requires pipeline operators to take actions after an accident greater than those that currently exist in their regulation even though it has been loathe to incorporate similar requirements into its regulations that the Safety Board has recommended for years.
Mr. Chairman, that concludes my statement. I have Mr. Alan Beshore with me, who is the investigator in charge of this accident in Bellingham; the head of our pipeline office Mr. Chipkevich; and I have also brought with me Mr. Dan Campbell, who is our former general counsel and managing director, who has been consulting with the Attorney General's office for advice on any questions the committee might have that might touch on the interface between the investigations of the Board and the criminal investigation. Thank you, sir.
Mr. FRANKS. Thank you, Chairman Hall.
Ms. Coyner, let me begin, if I may, with a couple of questions. Chairman Hall indicates that a mandatory internal inspection program is both necessary and overdue. Give us your thinking.
Ms. COYNER. Two things I would say. One isand I don't mean that the Chairmanyou suggested this, that we have long had requirements for a variety of types of inspections of the line. What we have not had is a mandatory requirement on internal inspection devices, and that really reflects two things. One is the state of technology, and the second is our ability to determine where it is most valuable to use it.
Since I was last before the subcommittee, we have moved forward on the regulatory front in terms of requiring not only mandatory internal inspections, but other steps to protect environmentally sensitive areas and areas where there is population encroachment. We expect to have a notice of proposed rulemaking out at the beginning of next year, and we hope to close the rulemaking in the months that follow that.
Page 32 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 Mr. FRANKS. So your regulatory efforts now under way to address the environmentally sensitive and densely populated areas issue will contain mandatory internal inspection.
Ms. COYNER. It will not only require that, it will require changes in terms of where there are protective valves and other steps that we take to protect those areas.
Mr. FRANKS. In Chairman Hall's written testimony, he mentions the practice of interstate agents. Could you give us your perspective on allowing States to have authority over pipeline safety requirements for interstate pipelines?
That being said, we have extended to all States the opportunity to serve as temporary interstate agents. What that means is that it allows a State to participate in looking at lines where they have a particular interest, where they have things to contribute in terms of the community's concerns both at the State and at the local level. The States of Texas and Oklahoma have accepted that opportunity. This is an offer that has also been extended to Washington State.
The last thing I would say, that in terms of the allocation of resources, as you know, we also provide States resources through the State grants program. The question recognizes what should be the priority of the States in using those funds. It is our belief they should focus on intrastate lines, specifically local distribution companies where we have the greatest risk of injury and fatalities. And that is the division of responsibility that we think is most useful between the Federal and State government.
Page 33 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 Mr. FRANKS. My research into this incident, Ms. Coyner, would suggest that perhaps we need a new focus on the adequacy of the reporting requirements when the industry engages in efforts to detect possible areas of weakness in their pipeline. Does this incident suggest to you that inadequate information is being made available to OPS from the pipeline operators?
Ms. COYNER. I think it does suggest that we need to do a better job in terms of collecting data both on the condition of pipelines and potential incidents. We need to have a better sense and understanding of what the things are that lead up to an incident well before you get to a rupture in the line. That would require, I believe, both changes to our statute, but also a change of focus in terms of our resource level. But I think it is important that we make changes in that area. Now we have attempted to use the risk management demonstration program to get at some of those issues in order to demonstrate the value of having additional information from companies in terms of achieving greater safety and greater environmental protection.
Mr. FRANKS. My time is almost up. I have one question for Chairman Hall in this first round, and we will come back.
Chairman, you indicated that the issue of technology, available technology, needs to be brought to bear, the best possible technology possible needs to be brought to bear here to help ensure the safety of these pipelines. I am told that there are a variety of forms of pigs that are available, some are better than others, other devices; that there is a continuum on which these devices exist that has suggested disparate effectiveness. Do we need to require the highest state-of-the-art technology be employed by operators of these interstate pipeline companies to make sure that the data that is possible to generate is, in fact, generated by these operators?
Mr. HALL. I believe we do, Mr. Chairman. And let me just comment that the industry knows all that they need to know about keeping these pipelines safe. They had have the expertise in terms of the various types of testing devices, their effectiveness, where they may or may not have omissions or problems. They should have worked cooperatively in the past 10 to 15 years with the Department to try to have regulations in place that are meaningful. It is a sad state of affairs in our country to have a major industry essentially in a situation that the regulatory oversight is basically now coming out of the scope of Justice rather than the Department of Transportation.
Page 34 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 Mr. FRANKS. Let mow bring one example to bear, and then I would like to have both of you and Ms. Coyner comment if you could. I may have my facts wrong, and if they are wrong, please direct me. But there was a pigging of this line done by Olympic that identified some 300 anomalies during the length of the pipeline that was tested. Only a limited number of segments of the pipeline were physically inspected in lieu of the results of that pigging. One of those places where an anomaly was potentially identified was the point at which the rupture occurred. It was not one of these that was dug up. On its face, of the protocol followed by the pipeline operator in that case of only physically inspecting a small portion of the so-called anomalies, was that an appropriate or inappropriate response against the technology that is available to detect these problems?
Mr. HALL. Mr. Chairman, I respectfully would like to answer each and every question the committee asks, but those that bear directly on the investigation of this particular accident, I would think we would have to wait for the Board's investigation to be able to respond on those matters.
Mr. FRANKS. Let me ask this: If a pipeline operator in New Jersey were to undertake a pigging exercise and identified 200 anomalies in a pipeline and only sought to dig up a very smallless than 10 percent of those anomalies, given the technology available, is that an acceptable scientific response to the dangers that would have been potentially identified?
Mr. HALL. I would like Mr. Chipkevich to comment on that first.
Mr. CHIPKEVICH. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Certainly as part of this investigation we will be looking at the issue of how it was determined to examine sections of the pipe. And in looking atthere are various inspection tools that are designed for various purposes, looking at the geometric design of the pipe, high-resolution tools, other tools designed to look for corrosion or wall thinning, things of this nature. There is an art to examining the test results to identifying which anomalies do need to be examined and looked at. And we go look at that in each accident investigation to see how those decisions were made.
Page 35 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 We believe that certainly there is a need to push the technologies as far as we can to improve the testing techniques and how they are analyzed.
Mr. FRANKS. I don't know if you use the term advisedly or not. You said there is an ''art'' to inspecting or knowing what to look at. Is it an art, or is it a science?
Mr. CHIPKEVICH. Well, there is graphic information that is produced as a result of each test. And analyzing and examining that graphic display of information and what it means does require a great level of expertise.
Mr. FRANKS. Exempting this accident, do we generally find that that level of expertise resides in pipeline companies?
Mr. CHIPKEVICH. Generally it resides within those outside companies doing the testing for pipeline operators.
Mr. HALL. Normally that is a service that they contract for. As part of the contract, they contract for the analysis.
Mr. FRANKS. Ms. Coyner, is there any regulation or industry guidelines that relate to what a company is expectI am trying to be generic herewhat a company is expected to do in light of the results from the outside contractor that goes in to make these assessments?
Ms. COYNER. There are two issues here, the first is that there are commonly accepted standards. For example, the American Society for Mechanical Engineering set standards on if you detect wall loss, for example, what times you should excavate and what kinds of remedial actions you should take. The standards that are an employed by the individual vendors are proprietary standards which we have been gaining expertise over the last several years. But some of these technologies are relatively recent, and there have not been universal standards applied because the tools are different. Some operate one particular way; others are designed to pick up different kinds of defects. So there has not been the same kinds of universal standards, if you will, that you have found in some other areas, but there certainly are standards that are indicated in terms of remediation.
Page 36 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 The only thing I would like to add, if I may, is when you go through this process and you detect the anomalies, you do a grading process both based on what that tool shows you, as well as the standards that we are looking to do excavation and take a closer physical look at the line.
This is something that is used across the board, because anomalies are notdon't necessarily mean defects. It may be a known defect that may have happened. It may be looking at a pen or a pencil where you see a nick, as opposed to where you see a serious problem.
The beauty of internal inspection devices over what we have seen in the past is that they are a nondestructive form of testing. You don't endanger the pipe by using it. I would say, to be a little bit more explicit, there is a high level of expertise, that part of the expertise is having the art of reading it. It is not something where you can say that you know to an absolute certainty, and so your engineering standards give you a margin of error in terms of making your decision, in terms of remediating the issue on the pipe.
Mr. HALL. Mr. Chairman, I might just comment. Mr. Chairman, I have had the opportunity to serve in my present position since 1994, and one of the things that Mr. Chipkevich'sthe predecessor Mr. Batton took me around in the early part of 1995. We visited a number of companies, large international companies both here and abroad that make these devices. All technology obviously is evolving, but this technology has been around for an extended period of time in terms of technology.
So our concern here is the requirement of an internal inspections, and I still believe that is something that OPS is not moving forward on.
Mr. FRANKS. This is my last comment, I promise. I apologize to my Ranking Member.
Ms. Coyner, you told me that OPS is in the process of developing regulations concerning environmentally sensitive, densely populated areas, and within that framework will indeed address the mandatory internal inspection requirement just mentioned by Chairman Hall?
Page 37 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 Ms. COYNER. Yes.
Mr. FRANKS. That will be issued by OPS when?
Ms. COYNER. The notice of proposed rulemaking will be issued at the beginning of the year, with the rulemaking to be completed within the calendar year.
Mr. FRANKS. Mr. Wise.
Mr. WISE. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Ms. Coyner, going to the issue of testing, you heard Representative Inslee talked about hydrostatic testing. What is RSPA's position on hydrostatic testing, both the strengths and the pros and the cons of it?
Ms. COYNER. Hydrostatic testing should be used when you havereasonably that the risks entailed with using hydrostatic testing are outweighed by the benefits. And in the situation with Bellingham, Washington, we required testing of all of the lowwhat we call low-resistance ERW pipe from pre1970. Now what that means isis that we have a good sense of where we think the greatest level of failures are and the kind of defect that occurs along the seam of a pipe which cannot be detected by a pig. Ninety-eight percent of the failures of low-resistant ERW pipe come fromor seam failures come from this low-resistant type of pipe.
We have a regime in place right now that went into effect into 1988 which requires the testing of this pipe on a risk basis because we believe given that high-level risk, you need to test the pipe, and there are some alternatives in terms of lowering the pressure to deal with it. But we do not advocate hydrostatically testing every line, because hydrostatically testing a line inherently damages the pipe, and it causes the kind of a damage that is not readily detected in the hydrostatic testing or through pigging.
And so we don't have a perfect technology to deal with the issue, and we make the best choices that we can in terms of requiring this particular tool.
Page 38 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 Mr. WISE. What kind of damage does the hydrostatic testing cause?
Ms. COYNER. It is called reversal of pressure, and basically it results from the intense pressure and then the reversing of it. And what I would like to do is ask Associate Administrator Felder to describe that in a little bit more detail.
Mr. FELDER. What will happen to you is let us say you test the pipe at 125 percent or 140 percent of its yield strength, and it passes the test, but because of the pressure reversal effect, it can then later fail at a lower pressure. So in other words, you have introduced a defect, and the defect that you have introduced is likely to manifest itself at a pressure lower than you previously tested at.
Mr. WISE. If I could ask, if you wouldn't mind putting up the map, the pipeline, you know. Am I correct, Madam Administrator, that the section that has been hydrostatically tested is the one in green?
Ms. COYNER. That is correct.
Mr. WISE. And that is roughly what, 37 miles?
Ms. COYNER. The completion of that 37 miles should happen by this week or the end of next week. The initial part that we tested was right in that area of Bellingham, which is where we have the seam failure on the Lone Star pipe. The additional testing area includes all of the Lone Star pipe on this system, plus some U.S. Steel pipe as well.
Mr. WISE. But at the completion of your hydrostatic testing, then everything in green in the north.
Ms. COYNER. That is right.
Mr. WISE. Does that then go down to Bayview?
Ms. COYNER. That goes down to Bayview.
Mr. WISE. Nothing south of that, though, will have been hydrostatically tested?
Page 39 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 Ms. COYNER. At this time. Now, if we discover some additional indications, particularly with the U.S. Steel pipe, we would require additional hydrostatic testing.
Mr. WISE. I see. If you observe indications from the green, the section in green, then that would cause a concern, and then you would direct hydrostatic testing in other segments?
Ms. COYNER. Yes.
Mr. WISE. Another question I have is, if we could switch to training, NTSB has raised concerns about training, and I wondered how OPS is addressing that.
Ms. COYNER. I share Chairman Hall's concerns that in the past that we have had an inadequate approach to training. But what I would like to focus for a minute on is what the final rule does that we put into place this August. This is a comprehensive rule that requires training of every safety-sensitive position on the pipeline. It requires the companies to identify who they are and demonstrate not only how they will be trained, but how they will be evaluated to see if that training was successful.
During the transition time period, we have allowed an exception in terms of the way that they may be evaluated, which is through on-the-job observation, and the reason we did this is we wanted to get quicker assessments of what people's skills are right now. But it is contemplated that a number of these individuals will either be licensed by State agencies, or they will be certified by a professional standard organization.
As you may know in 1996, the law was amended taking away our authority to do certification. And so our approach has been to maximize the effectiveness and training by taking a somewhat different approach than having the Office of Pipeline Safety do the certification.
Mr. WISE. Chairman Hall, would you like to address that?
Page 40 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 Mr. HALL. Well, Congressman, I would like to address it and then ask Mr. Chipkevich if there is anything I missed on this. We made this recommendation in 1987, some 12 years ago, to request the adequate training, and we recommended that RSPA require operators to develop training programs. As the Administrator mentioned in October of 1998, then NPRM was published on this subject to require pipeline operators to develop a written qualification program for individuals operating pipelines.
However, in reviewing that NPRM, our staff noticed that it did not establish training requirements for personnel, and it allowed companies to evaluate an individual's ability to perform tasks using methods such as oral examinations or observations of on-the-job performance. We issued comments, which I can supply for the record. A letter was submitted to RSPA urging them to revise their rule to include strong training and testing requirements to ensure that the employees can properly perform their jobs. And we were disappointed when the final rule was published in August of 1999 that it was substantially unchanged from the NPRM that was submitted in October of the previous year.
Mr. WISE. Madam Administrator, did you wish to comment?
Ms. COYNER. The approach that we were taking will require a very stringent approach to not only training individuals, but also assessing that training. We will be engaged in a series of especially inspections over the course of the next 38 months, which is the transition time period, and at the conclusion of that time period, to ensure that appropriate training has been adhered to. There will be compliance guidelines for our inspectors to follow, and we will be looking for the appropriate level training depending on what the particular job is.
There is a range of safety-sensitive jobs. We chose to take this approach because we thought it was the most comprehensive approach, but it ranges from the person who does welds to the person who works in the operating control room. And the standards for training are different. Someone who is in a control room should be trained in the classroom, should be trained on a simulator, and should also have on-the-job evaluation as well as probably written exam evaluation. Someone who is a welder probably can be appropriately assessed by being a certified welder through an appropriate professional standards serving organization.
Page 41 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 I think that time will tell if this is a successful approach, but I believe that we have taken a strong basis for doing this. And the way that we came to this conclusion is we did a negotiated rulemaking, where we included everyone that we believed had a very strong interest in this issue. It was not only industry, but it was our fellow State pipeline safety agencies, it was the National Fire Protection Association, the fire marshals that were included, as well as two union representatives were in this process.
There are always opportunities to do a better job, and we will continuously look at this program as we go forward and make appropriate regulatory changes as we identify them.
Mr. WISE. We will be back on this one some more.
Chairman Hall, I look at your chart that you put up on what NTSB is presently doing and what is suspended. I have to tell you as a layperson it looks to me like you were pretty much out of business for a while on some of the most significant aspects of this investigation.
I guess my concern isand I understand the concerns of the criminal justice system as wellbut do you have any observation how does this square with accidents that you investigate in other areas where there may also be Department of Justice involvement?
Mr. HALL. While Mr. Campbell is coming to the table, if I could just respond briefly to your last question as well in the aviation area, we have different training for pilots, mechanics, flight attendants, the various individuals that are responsible for the safety of that particular industry. And within the cockpit itself, there is different training required for the different types of aircraft that an individual may be flying.
So I think what Ms. Coyner pointed out wasis exactly the point that the Board had in a situation where one size does not fit all. One size does not fit all. And there are certain positions that are more safety-sensitive than others, and to treat them all in the same fashion was one of the things the Board found unacceptable.
Page 42 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 I am going to ask my generalformer general counsel and now my managing director, acting managing director, for some assistance in responding to your question, Mr. Wise. Let me, however, state that, Congressman, you know, it is not unusual for the Board to work alongside with criminal investigations, and we obviously understand and respect the individual rights that each citizen has in this Nation. However, we are presently in this investigation trying to havewe had the opportunity to meet several weeks ago with the members of the Department of Justice to see if some of these matters could not be expedited because of my concerns in being sure that our investigation on this particular matter moved forward as expeditiously as possible.
This is Mr. Dan Campbell.
Mr. CAMPBELL. Congressman, the initiation of a criminal investigation in an accident is not uncommon. This particular one has aspects to it that are relatively novel, and we need to address them, and as Chairman Hall said, we are attempting to address them in the context of this accident as expeditiously as possible to work out the mechanisms of compromise between our needs and the needs of the Justice Department so that we can move ahead.
We are seeing in this accident, what I am somewhat disturbed about, is the possibility for the paragon for the future in that the earlier in time the criminal investigation is initiated, the earlier in time that cooperation from NTSB from the private sector side is likely to dry up. And in this investigation, I think if you look on the chart, you will also see we were having some difficulty in determining how to go forward on testing of physical evidence, and that is the real novelty here.
Typically in a criminal investigation, we had been able to move through that phase, and the work of the NTSB is used in the subsequent process of other agencies. In this case, we were confronted with some concerns over whether or not evidence that we look at would subsequently be available in other processes, and until we resolve that, we are stymied on the issue of actually going forward with physical testing. That is, as I say, somewhat novel to this investigation, and we need to move through it here, and we need to resolve it as a possibility for the future as well.
Page 43 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 Mr. WISE. Mr. Chairman, I will conclude with this: It just seems there are obviously clear needs, both NTSB and the Department of Justice. It also seems clear to me these are not insurmountable hurdles, and what is happening is that some very real investigation that needs to continue is at least stopped or suspended. That will make it even that much more difficult for residents of Bellingham to understand fully what happened. It will also make it very difficult for this subcommittee and full committee as it tries to address pipeline safety overall.
Certainly this tragedy needs resolution and needs investigation so that as this Congress looks at legislation, it can fully incorporate what is found there. Thank you.
Mr. FRANKS. Thank you, Mr. Wise.
Mr. METCALF. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. As I mentioned in my testimony, I recentlyand this is a question to basically to Kelley Coyner. As I mentioned in my testimony, I recently asked your office to amend its corrective action order to require hydrostatic testing along the entire Olympic pipeline. In your response you explained that there are two kinds of pipe in the Olympic pipeline, the low-frequency ERW pipe and the high-frequency ERW pipe, and that only the low-frequency ERW pipe has a history of problems.
Given that the portion of the line which ruptured on June 10th was a high-frequency ERW pipe, I am not really satisfied with your explanation. After a tragedy of the magnitude that occurred in Bellingham, it seems essential to the peace of mind of thousands of citizens who live in my State who live along the pipeline that the line be pressure-tested.
What are your reasons? Have you reconsidered that decision?
Ms. COYNER. We actually have not made a final decision, as I indicated in my letter, about hydrostatically testing the entire line, and that awaits completion of this segment of hydrostatic testing. But I would like to address the question that you raise in terms of the portion of the line that fell in Bellingham. It is important to notice, I think, as the picture demonstrated, the failure was not along the seam in the U.S. Steel pipe in Bellingham. Hydrostatic testing is something that we use to test seam failures because we don't have a very good tool to test that with in terms of internal inspection devices.
Page 44 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 And the failures that we have seen along the seam have been in low-resistance ERW pipe, not in the high-resistance. Now, the section that we are going to complete testing on in the next week or so includes some high-resistance pipe in it, which would give us an indication if there is an undetected problem in it. My concern is that it would be a false promise to the people on that line if I hydrostatically test a line that is not justified, and I damage it, and I can'tand it cannot be detected, and that is why we haven't made a decision at this point, and we would be very cautious about making it if we didn't have demonstrated risk.
Mr. METCALF. OK, thank you. The Olympic pipeline runs through the length of Washington State and through the heart of some highly populated areas and through some extremely environmentally sensitive areas. Back in 1994, before I was elected, and before you became RSPA Administrator, Congress directed your agency to define high-density population areas, and environmentally sensitive areas and to develop special safety rules for each. This was supposed to be done by October 24th, 1994, according to my information.
Now more than 5 years later, I am not aware of any definitions or rules. And if you have them, then I would like to be aware of them; and, if not, does not that delay, a 5-year delay, seem irresponsible?
Ms. COYNER. The law was changed in 1996 to change the definition of that. It was modified by Congress, and subsequent to that time we have moved forward on defining the unusually sensitive areas and the areas of high population density. The work on that was completed this summer. While it is an important issue, it is an extremely difficult one to complete.
And let me just give one example. In the State of Texas, when we were doing this kind of inventory that we will be undertaking in Washington State, one of the issues that we are looking at is where are the water sources, the water intakes that are along pipelines. And there are more than 10,000 places that we have to individually verify in order to ensure the integrity of that information.
Page 45 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 We are moving forward in terms of applying this definition. The announcement that I made today moves Washington State to the top of the list both in terms of the inventory and then implementing the kinds of measures that will provide additional protection for people and the environment.
Mr. METCALF. OK. Last question. Earlier this year, I called on your office to require the reassignment of the eight Olympic employees who have chosen the fifth amendment protection until after the investigation is over. It is still too early to know whether those employees are at fault or not, but I liken the situation to where there is a fatal accident involving a police officer, the officer is not punished, but is taken off the beat until the accident is fully investigated.
Why was this not done with the eight Olympic employees?
Ms. COYNER. I am advised that under the terms of our statute, I don't have the authority to strike someone from their job based on whether or not they asserted the fifth amendment. What I am able to do is if I see that there is an imminent harm in a pipeline, I am able to take certain steps. And I am told this is not one that rises to that level.
What we have done to address the issue, if there are some, with the controllers is to require extensive training of all the operators in that control room, which I believe will be completed very shortly.
Mr. METCALF. I am not saying that they should be fired. I am just saying that they, like in law enforcement, should be essentially given other duties or whatever until the information comes through.
Ms. COYNER. I understand your concern. I am advised that I don't have that authority.
Mr. METCALF. Thank you.
Page 46 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 Those are all the questions I have, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. FRANKS. Thank you, Mr. Metcalf.
It is a pleasure to welcome Mr. Baird to the subcommittee. Mr. Baird represents the State of Washington. Welcome to our subcommittee, Mr. Baird.
Mr. BAIRD. Thank you, Mr. Chair, I appreciate you letting me join you. And I appreciate the testimony of the panelists. You know, I am going to have to leave in a little bit.
In the packet of testimony we have, the most moving testimony we will hear today is clearly that of the family, and I would encourage folks to look at this.
If I can ask folks to put the map up of the State, I just want to clarify why I am here and what my concerns are.
From Olympia on down to Portland is my district, roughly where the Columbia River, which is that black linethis border between the States is the Columbia. Right where it curves is the City of Longview. In Kelso, which is adjacent to Longview, there has been a landslide that has wiped out about 130 homes. The Olympic Pipeline runs essentially through the same geological formulation. So we have an area of landslide, a known landslide, that has wiped out 130 homes, and a gas pipeline running through that area of known soil instability. No one has mentioned that. We have got issues of pigs running down the pipelines and hydrostatic testing and whatnot. I have heard no mention at all of the review of the geological stability of the formulation through which the pipeline runs.
Could you address that a little bit, please?
Ms. COYNER. Yes. I am going to ask Mr. Felder to give an answer.
Mr. FELDER. Actually we have been working very closely both with the Olympic and Northwest pipeline on these issues and are jointly sponsoring some additional research into both the placement of and the proliferation of remote sensing devices so that when there is a soil shift, you can get an early warning and take the appropriate measures. There is geological work that is being done to study the underpinnings of the lines so that if there is a need to either move or improve the siting of those lines, that will be undertaken. Plus, you know, with the real-time monitoring technology being applied, we will be able to anticipate, hopefully, those kinds of movements.
Page 47 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 Mr. BAIRD. When do we expect that study of the geological conditions to be completed, and at what point do we expect the real-time monitoring to be in place?
Mr. FELDER. The real-time monitoring, some of that is in place already on the Northwest system. As to the areas in Olympic, I would have to get back to you on that.
Mr. BAIRD. I would appreciate that.
[The information received follows:]
Mr. FELDER. I wouldn't want to give you too much information on that one, if it is not all in place right now.
Mr. BAIRD. The other question I have that is pertaining to the map, and I will just point it out, about where you see the Washington on the lower border, about where that H is, there was another pipeline explosion in my district. Fortunately no one was killed, but it was a large gas pipeline explosion near the town of North Bonneville. Will you be conducting similar kinds of reviews, not only the liquid gasoline pipelines, but also the gaseous pipelines?
Mr. FELDER. The natural gas pipelines. We have the same concerns. As I said, we are working with Northwest on that. And, yeah, I mean, we areas they often say, the pipe doesn't care what is in it.
Mr. BAIRD. Right.
Mr. FELDER. And what we are concerned with is protecting people and the environment, whatever the level of risk, whether it is gas or a liquid.
Page 48 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 Mr. BAIRD. The second or the next question would be I was somewhat concerned, in fact quite concerned, to learn that the standards by which the data from the pigs is interpreted may be proprietary. It is my understanding that a significant portionin fact, a primary responsibility for the actual investigations have been left to the pipeline companies and the people with whom they contract with oversight from the various agencies, and yet we are now hearing that the data, empirical results which allow us to conclude from an investigation to a risk factor, is proprietary.
Does that mean your agency doesn't actually know or have actually checked out the validity of this so-called scientific information?
Ms. COYNER. No. What I was trying to address, and perhaps somewhat inartfully, is that there is not similar kinds of universal standards on the high-end smart pig technologies that you see in some other areas. For instance, the British crack pigs, which is designed to look at cracks, is a fairly relatively new technology compared to some of the older pigging technologies. That has meant that we don't have the same kinds of general standards. They are more specific to that particular proprietary technology.
We have taken steps and we increased our level of focus on our own training of our inspectors. In the last several years, we have relied very heavily on Oak Ridge National Labs to provide us support, to give us independent experts. And, in fact, we have retained an expert in this case to review the pig runs for the Olympic pipeline.
Mr. BAIRD. Can you give us some sense of the validity data in terms of key indicators and the rates of false positives, false negatives, the actual empirical studies that you have reviewed?
Ms. COYNER. I think that would be one that would be useful to answer on the record so we can give you a complete answer.
Mr. BAIRD. I would be interested in that. I am very interested in what our false negative rate is in that. In other words, if we imposethe way I wouldI teach scientific methods, and the way I would do this, I am sure it has been doneI am not so sure actuallyis that, you know, take a strand of pipe, stress it, damage it, run a pig through it, see if the pig catches it, and see what the percentage of false positives and true positives is and true negatives is, and hope you will get back to us with that.
Page 49 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 [The information received follows:]
Mr. BAIRD. The final issue I just want to raise is prior to coming to Congress, I had some more than passing interest in the issue of risk analysis. And risk analysis has essentially simplified the probability of an event in relation to the magnitude of the damage caused by the event. We have seen extensive evaluation in the area of nuclear power, for example, detailed studies of risk analysis.
As I am listening today, and we have heard, we have had two explosions within our own State alone. It was just by the grace of God that we didn't have more people killed in Bellingham, and it is a tragedy that we lost three fine young people.
What is the risk analysis, given the miles of pipeline, the numbers of populated areas, the numbers, as Congressman Metcalf mentioned, of environmentally sensitive and what is apparently a fairly frequent event, what is the risk analysis of significant loss of life over the next 5 years due to a pipeline rupture?
Mr. FELDER. Well, interestingly, when something like this happens, people get the impression that, you know, hundreds of people are dying. The average number of deaths associated with liquid pipelines over the last 10 years is one a year. And the number of public fatalities associated with natural gas lines over the last dozen years is zero.
Mr. BAIRD. We are pretty damn close to raising that to a couple in my district, I can tell you.
Mr. FELDER. I couldn't agree with you more. That is what makes this so tragic, because the occasion of public fatalities associated with pipeline incidents is very, very low. Usually because most of the events are caused by outside force damage, it is either a pipeline worker or it is an emergency responder is either injured or loses his life.
Page 50 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 Ms. COYNER. I would add that if you look at the risk analysis issues, the place that we really have to be concerned is the increased growth, construction along pipelines, because unless we deal with that issue effectively both in terms of how we monitor pipelines through things like internal inspection devices, as well as keeping people from bumping into the pipeline in the first place, we will see those numbers increase.
And the issue here, and to sort of use the language, I know you are very familiar with this, there may be low-probability events, but they are tremendously high-consequence in terms of loss of life or potential damage to the environment.
Mr. BAIRD. That is precisely my concern.
Mr. HALL. Congressman, referring back to one of your earlier questions in regard to environmentally sensitive areas and the geography in your district, there was a recommendation that came out of an accident in Buckeye, Pennsylvania, which I will be glad to get to your office, saying that OPS should be looking at automatic or remote valves to isolate the line.
Then we had an accident in the Chairman's district in Edison, New Jersey, in which we stillwe reiterated that recommendation and have an open safety recommendation asking for automatic or remote-operated valves at environmentally sensitive areas so that the lines could be isolated rapidly. And we will get both of those accident reports to your office.
And let me also clarify for the committee that all of the lines in the United States are not pigable. And there is no requirement that all the lines in the United States be pigable.
Mr. BAIRD. Thank you very much.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. FRANKS. Thank you, Mr. Baird.
Page 51 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 Mr. COOKSEY. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Hall, I want to compliment you on your presentation, because you used really very effective visual aids. I am a visual person in more ways than one, and too often we have witnesses that give a lot of words. But that was a good presentation, and it helps me understand it, but I still have some questions.
Mr. HALL. Thank you very much, Congressman. But the credit belongs to my staff that put that work together.
Mr. COOKSEY. Well, as much as we hate to admit it publicly, mostly everything great we do up here belongs to our staff. And it was good. I think we ought to use that as a model.
You know, as a physician I still have to tend to focus on the human aspect of this. I know that you say there is only one accident a year, but for that family, it is 100 percent, and it is a tragedy. And I am concerned about the morbidity and the mortality aspect of this.
And I am going back to a question that I asked a previous group. Who is the engineer at the table? Are you, Mr. Felder, an engineer, or Mr. Chipkevich?
Mr. HALL. Mr. Beshore.
Mr. COOKSEY. Mr. Beshore, could you explain the probable sequence of events that caused this accident to occur in terms of the pipeline, the valves, the computers? And, again, I am not aI am a physician, I am not an engineer, but just to help the lawyers here and the physicians and the nonthose of us that are not smart enough to be engineers to understand what probably happened in this.
Mr. BESHORE. Yes. If you could put the map back up, I would refer you, sir, to the timeline of events that was attached to the written statement, and I will just kind of briefly run through that system of events. But thewhat we understand was that they were changing delivery locations from right in the vicinity of Renton, into this area here in Seattle, and so we refer to a time frame there where we were making changes on the system in order to revise their delivery locations. There were several commands issued at that point in time.
Page 52 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 Now to make that change, it is necessary to start another pump here at Woodinville to help push the product on down the line through that segment, and they attempted to start that pump, but that attempt failed. In the control center, there are two computer systems that are operating the pipeline. One is in a backup mode; the other is operating. One of those systems went down, and the computer operations were halted, so then there was about a 3-minute gap in time before the other system came back on-line and the controllers started receiving again good data from the system so that they knew what was going on out there.
Then right at that same period of time, just shortly thereafter, because this pump had failed to start, you know, pressure in this line began to build back up here to Bayview station, and so within that station, there was a relief valve that was designed to relieve pressure within the station. And for whatever reasonwe are still looking at thatthe pressure continued to build within the station, and there is a block valve on the pipeline that that then closed. So when that block valve closed, the pressure right on this section of pipe right up there rose rather quickly, and then we believe the rupture occurred at about 3:30 in the afternoon shortly after that event here in Bellingham.
Then a few minutes later, the computer that had come back on-lineor that was brought up as a backup, it went down. And so then there was a gap in data of about 14 minutes before the other system came back on-line to give the operators an indication of what was going on on the system.
Severalapproximately half a hour later, I guess, the controllers set the system up, opened the valves up and began pumping again from Cherry Point on back down to Bayview and Allen, apparently not knowing that the line had ruptured. About 15 minutes later, 17 minutes later, they received a leak alert signal from the computer, and then the lines shut down shortly thereafter, and the block valves were closed to isolate the section of pipeline. And then the ignition occurred approximately 30 minutes after that.
Page 53 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 Mr. COOKSEY. That is a good explanation, clarification.
How deep was the pipeline where it ruptured?
Mr. BESHORE. It was approximately 8 to 10 feet deep.
Mr. COOKSEY. What is the average depths of pipelines, of the 160,000 miles of pipeline across the country of this nature that carry really high-hazardous materials like gasoline? Is this gasoline or jet fuel or both, all or both?
Mr. BESHORE. This line, I think, could be used for a variety ofbut it is all refined petroleum products.
Mr. COOKSEY. Let me go back to another area of questioning. Do any pigs have cameras in them? Is that done routinely to test to look for defects in the inside of pipes?
Mr. BESHORE. There have been various studies under way to utilize that type of technology. But in terms of the smart pigs that we are discussing here, they use other means than visual inspections or camera.
Mr. COOKSEY. What about nondestructive testing that was alluded to in the earlier testing, like ultrasound testing, X-ray testing? How much of that is done? Can that be done on a pipeline that is 8 feet underground?
Ms. COYNER. One form of the pigging technology is ultrasound. They also use a magnetic resonance, but there is alsoX-rays are not typically used on buried pipes, although X-rays are done of welds at the time of construction and repair.
Mr. COOKSEY. Good. Thank you.
What is the alternative to a pipeline? Is it railroad cars with tank cars with these petroleum products, or finished petroleum products and trucks?
Ms. COYNER. Trucks, rail, barge would be the three.
Mr. COOKSEY. Which is the safest?
Page 54 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 Ms. COYNER. Of those three, I don't know.
Mr. COOKSEY. Mr. Felder.
Mr. FELDER. I think generally speaking based onif you compare what is carried and what is lost, you would have to say pipelines.
Ms. COYNER. I thought you meant as between those three.
Mr. COOKSEY. Of the options, railway, cars, barges and trucks.
Ms. COYNER. Of the options, I don't recall which one.
Mr. COOKSEY. that are out there, not that we are exposed to on the highways or if you are on a waterway.
Ms. COYNER. I don't know what the relative safety is on those three. I would be glad to answer that for the record, looking at the Department's statistics.
[The information received follows:]
Ms. COYNER. What I do know is that the incident experienced on pipelines is better than either of the other three.
Mr. COOKSEY. There was some indication from your testimony, Ms. Coyner, that you arethat there is some intrastate testing by States. It is my understanding that some States can be certified to do their own testing; is that correct?
Ms. COYNER. States can be, and we encourage them to become our agents for intrastate lines where they do the inspections of transmission lines that are within the boundaries of their State, as well as local distribution systems, the gas systems that deliver gas to homes. We also have a provision that allows States to become temporary interstate agents as well.
Page 55 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 Mr. COOKSEY. I am a great believer in morein devolving more power oversight regulation back to the States. But in this particular case, couldn't that create a littlewell, more chaos or less supervision if you devolved too much of that back to the States, or do you think it is better to have it on a State-by-State basis? I would be concerned that you might not come up to the same standards that we would expect to try to reduce this one fatality a year to zero fatalities a year.
Is it better to do it on a State-by-Stateintrastate or State-by-State basis?
Ms. COYNER. I think there are two issues. One is how do you best allocate the resources that you have, State and Federal? And we believe that the best allocation of that is for the States to focus on intrastate lines; although the basic standard for that is a Federal standard setting a minimum requirement for the intrastate lines. Those intrastate lines, of course, are within one area, so they are going to have a consistent application, we hope, by the State enforcement agency of our standards, plus anything that they may require beyond our standard.
Our concern in the case of interstate lines, of completely handing that over to the States, is exactly what you identified, inconsistent application of the standards from State to State; but a more fundamental thing, which is really sort of how you do business, is communication between different entities regulating different parts of the lines.
We have moved, for example, to putting together teams of inspectors across our Federal regions to inspect a line, because we had exactly that same issue, where we identified a problem in one region here in the Colonial pipeline, and we weren't effectively communicating that issue to check and see if it was on another part of the pipeline.
And so where lines cut across States, we think that the best answer is to take that approach and, in order to get the local and State input, to actively engage them in the regulation process as well as how we implement the program. So we work very closely with individual States. We have a liaison for each State. But also with their organizations, they have two professional organizations that we work with as well.
Page 56 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 Mr. COOKSEY. Good.
Ms. COYNER. We try to have the best of both worlds.
Mr. COOKSEY. Sure.
Again, your explanation of the sequence of events was excellent. That helps me understand. I am concerned that across the country thatdo all pipelines have these same valves, these same computers that alter the flow of natural gas, refined and unrefined petroleum products?
Mr. BESHORE. This type of a computerized control system is fairly common throughout industry. Not all companies utilize the same products or the same vendors, but it is a relatively common process.
Mr. COOKSEY. Well, I will notI will stop my questions there, but there is something in the back of my mind that I don't even want to utter, but there is a special date coming up at the end of December. I hope there is notI have some people in my area that are kind of paranoid about Y2K. So I hope those computers are working, too.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and thank you.
Mr. FRANKS. Thank you, Dr. Cooksey.
Ms. Coyner, for a moment I want to explore this temporary interstate agent relationship. There are a handful of States, nine States, that have been cast in that role; is that correct?
Ms. COYNER. Let me make sure. I am going to check with Rich.
There are nine States that have interstate status. Two of them are considered temporary, and seven are phasing out, I think, of the interstate process. They were permanent agents. Is that accurate?
Mr. FELDER. There are nine that are in there. And last year, the year before, we had 12; so, in other words, three left the program. On the other hand, we have worked with other States, for example, like the State of Texas, which had previously applied to become an interstate agent and deputized them as a temporary agent to look at critical issues that have come up in their State.
Page 57 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 For example, there was a large-scale construction project of the Longhorn pipeline. The intrastate program did construction inspections on that development because it was of interest to them, it was local to them. When that construction project was basically concluded, they turned it back to us, and we have done the environmental analysis and worked with other Federal agencies on the completion of that project.
Mr. FRANKS. Conceptually, by regulation, you established this relationship of temporary interstate agent, or was that a statutory provision that we wrote in the Congress?
Mr. FELDER. It is actually by agreement, the certification program where each one of the individual States puts together its pipeline safety program, applies to us for certification to apply our minimum Federal standards and other compatible regulations.
Mr. FRANKS. I am wondering this temporary interstate agent status, is it something that we wrote in the law or that you folks created?
Mr. FELDER. It is not statutory.
Mr. FRANKS. It is nonstatutory, you folks created it. Are you now trying to phase it out?
Ms. COYNER. What we are trying to phase out is the permanent interstate agent status where we can completely hand over that responsibility to the States. And perhaps our terminology is inartful, but the temporary status was designed to allow States to work with us cooperatively on interstate lines, so that we got this kind of team approach to looking at issues, so that we gave States an opportunity to focus on issues that they may have a particularly high concern on, but where we didn't lose the continuity across a system because we still have the Federal involvement on the intrastate.
Mr. FRANKS. Was one of the reasons for you establishing this temporary agency relationship based on inadequate resources at RSPA?
Page 58 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 Ms. COYNER. I think clearly that allowing usby allowing them to participate in this, it let us maximize the involvement of States on high-priority problems, like the Longhorn case where it was a very important environmental resource that needs to be protected.
Mr. FRANKS. Ms. Coyner, was it due to an inadequate amount of resources at OPS that you began to create this relationship where cooperatively you worked with States for this temporary agency relationship?
Ms. COYNER. The answer would be that we wouldn't have been able to meet these needs without using this temporary agent status. So the answer is clearly yes.
Mr. FRANKS. This subcommittee is charged with the responsibility of reauthorizing OPS. We would like to get about that business as quickly as we can. I wanted to make certain that we had this hearing and brought out relevant, pertinent information that should be considered by this subcommittee before we enter upon that final effort.
I will also tell you that the announcement that you have made this morning to have for us a draft rule concerning densely populated, environmentally sensitive, mandatory internal inspection, a whole host of issues that I think are very important to this subcommittee, bears directly on what we will discuss in this subcommittee.
It has been a challenge in recent years to have timely response from your agency about some of these issues. You have given explanation in terms of why it has taken so long, because some of these things are terribly complicated, and we do understand that. But we are coming into a period of time during which we need to have all relevant information before us. We look forward to the conclusion of the investigation.
I know that there are constraints in terms of Department of Justice issues and others surrounding that, but I would ask that both of you, if possible, be sensitive to what this committee's responsibility is and help us to discharge our responsibilities fully and fairly.
Page 59 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 Any closing comments? I wouldI thank you for staying as long as you have. It has been a very long panel, but I think it has been very helpful.
Mr. HALL. Just to close, Mr. Chairman, but I would just like to thank this committee and this interest. I have not been up here to testify on this subject this much since the Edison, New Jersey, explosion, and as you know, the resources that this Department has comes from user fees of the industry. The industry here is really the oil companies of the United States who come together in these entities to provide the pipeline services across the country.
And I think there is an obligation, a safety obligation, to the American people here that is not being fulfilled, and I am very pleased that this committee is focusing so intensely on this and putting so much time in it, and any additional assistance the Board can provide we will be glad to.
And I appreciate very much the Administrator's new focus on some of the recommendations the Board has made and her very cooperative efforts in working with the Board on this investigation.
Mr. FRANKS. Ms. Coyner.
Ms. COYNER. Thank you, and we will continue to work with you on reauthorization, and the rest of the members of the committee as well. Thanks.
Mr. FRANKS. Thank you very much.
We will now hear from our next panel, first from the supervisor for the Spill Response Section for the Department of Ecology for the State of Washington, Mr. Steve Hunter; and the mayor of the city of Bellingham, the Honorable Mark Asmundson, who will be accompanied by the city's engineer, Richard Kuprewicz.
Gentlemen, welcome. Mr. Hunter, we will begin with you to get the State Department of Ecology perspective's.
Page 60 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 TESTIMONY OF STEVE HUNTER, SUPERVISOR, SPILL RESPONSE SECTION, DEPARTMENT OF ECOLOGY, STATE OF WASHINGTON; AND MARK ASMUNDSON, MAYOR, CITY OF BELLINGHAM, WASHINGTON, ACCOMPANIED BY RICHARD KUPREWICZ, ENGINEER, CITY OF BELLINGHAM
Mr. HUNTER. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Good morning members of the subcommittee. I am Steve Hunter. I supervise the environmental response for the Washington State Department of Ecology, particularly oil and hazardous materials response. And I have been asked to give you a very brief synopsis of that response.
And if I may, let me clarify what I am sure you know that my agency responds to these kinds of incidents from an environmental perspective. In the case of the Bellingham incident, our role obviously takes a back seat to the immediate needs of the fire service and air public safety operations. So in my characterization and inmy brief characterization of the incident response will be from that of an environmental perspective.
As you know, emergency responders nationwide subscribe to a standard organizing principle called the incident command service. This began with the fire service, and the standard approach allows rapid meshing of multiple government authorities and private companies under emergency conditions, and we are pleased to see this work quite well at the Bellingham incident.
The unified command in Bellingham formed in about 3 hours of the explosion. The 5, as I referred to it here, was made up of representatives of the city of Bellingham, the State Department of Ecology, the United States Environmental Protection Agency and the Olympic Pipeline Company, and ultimately dozens of agencies and companies were integrated quite smoothly into this command structure so that organizational issues, which can be rather difficult, were one of the strengths of this response. The collaborative style of decision-making and the unified command worked quite well.
Page 61 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 There were no turf battles. There was full participation and integration of local elected officials, particularly Mayor Asmundson's office, and that pretty much minimized political conflicts, and that can be a problem as well. I think this response also showed an ability to tap statewide and nationwide resources.
There was a time when the water supply was threatened for Bellingham, and pumps and giant pumps and pipe had to be flown in from across the Nation. These sort of things went quite well. I looked to lessons learned here. And I think in retrospect it was more a case of relearning lessons again with respect to the environmental response, and I am not speaking to prevention here.
We found again the need for HAZMAT training for peripheral agencies and companies. Not everybody was cleared to go into certain areas, and this could be a particularly vexing problem with respect to getting certain responses under way. And, in fact, the issue of site safety, while it is a paramount issue in any incident of this nature, it was particularly detailed in this incident. We had hot spots. We had air monitoring issues. We had trees that were falling down, and so to integrate the environmental response with the site safety plans became a very detailed process.
And then finally, and something of an administrative matter, but one that can be very time-consuming, we needed to smoothly transition from an emergency response into a long-term restoration. There was a tremendous amount of environmental damage here, and toward the end of the emergency response, it sometimes became problematic as to whether or not we were in the last of the emergency or the beginning of the long-term restoration.
Now, let me speak quickly about the aftermath of this event. Right now biologists are working with the pipeline company to restore Whatcom Creek. You have heard testimony this morning that one and a half miles, all forms of life along the creek and in it were killed, and additionally everything in the creek from the point of release to the sea was killed. That is about 3 miles. Also, in reaction to the incident, Washington State Governor Gary Locke has launched a task force to look into the prevention of and the response to fuel transportation accidents related to pipelines, and this group is about halfway through its work with recommendations due to Governor Locke in December.
Page 62 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 Along the way some observations, of course, have been made, and I will share a few of those with you today. The task force has noted that the locations of pipeline are not well-known to communities. Also it is not incumbent that maps may not be within easy reach of emergency sponsors, and citizens are uncertain what to do if there is a sudden release in their neighborhood.
Since the Bellingham incident, and others have mentioned this too, individuals have expressed their concern that they now either don't know if there is a pipeline near their home or school, or if they have learned there is one, they are at a loss about what to do about it. The task force has also heard that 80 percent of our fire service is made up of volunteers, primarily the rural areas, and these are generous and courageous citizens, but their time limitations often mean they have minimal training in hazardous materials response. Moreover, full-time hazardous materials or HAZMAT response teams are closing down in our State because of the high cost to keep them equipped and trained.
And, in particular, the field prevention, the Governor's task force has heard that Federal law preempts the State and local governments from regulating the design, operation and maintenance of interstate pipelines, and this has attracted considerable attention to the issue of governance regarding pipeline, particularly the issues of operator training, inspections, enforcement and adequate staffing and funding for safety assurance.
In December this task force will make recommendations to Governor Locke, and he and the citizens of Washington State hope to arrive at a place in which residents no longer worry about whether their neighborhood pipeline was last tested or inspected or when the operators were last trained.
Clearly you can never undo this tragedy, but we do these things now together in the hopes of making it the last one.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Page 63 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 Mr. FRANKS. Thank you, Mr. Hunter.
I am glad to hear from the Honorable Mark Asmundson, the mayor of Bellingham.
Mr. ASMUNDSON. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I would like to introduce Rick Kuprewicz. If you have an engineering question, he will be able to answer it. He is part of the team of engineers who works for the city of Bellingham since the tragic incident and helped draft the immediate actions pipeline safety program that the City of Bellingham negotiated with the Olympic Pipeline Company. Rick has a career in working on fuel pipelines, and his vast experience has been invaluable to us in looking at and understanding the many technical issues that we faced in the aftermath of the June 10th tragedy.
I am the mayor the Bellingham. Bellingham is a wonderful town. There a lot of wonderful towns around America, but I would like to describe a little bit about this place. It has got a population of 64,000 people. It has been growing. It has a strong economy. It is in a physically incredibly beautiful location, located on Puget Sound near the San Juan Islands within an hour of the mountains. We, as I said, have about 65,000 souls in our community, and I can tell you there are no extras, and we could not afford to lose the three we lost on June 10th.
This community is a distinct and separate place. It has no suburbs and it is not a suburb. It is close to many places, and it is a vibrant close and wonderful community. It is also a community that really cares about its past and its future. People of our community know where they are. They are not on the path to another place, they have found home when they live in Bellingham. They intend to live there in harmony with one another and in harmony with the very beautiful environment.
I grew up there. I was important in Bellingham. One of the disadvantages of being the mayor of a city when something like this happens is that you know all the families that are involved who have lost their children. Liam Wood's mother, we refer to one another as cousin because we are both Icelandic, and everybody from Iceland is related whether they know it or not. And Frank and Mary King, I live within a few blocks of them. Mary's brother was my sister's boyfriend in high school. And their son Wade is an incredible young man who broughtwell, Frank will tell you. The light he brought to his family and his friends and to the community. Steven Tsiorvas lived right across the street and was Wade's best friend. Wonderful boy, wonderful family, a family filled with life. And they were just living their normal everyday lives playing the way boys do and the way they should in a park that was effectively their back yard, and they had no way of knowing and they didn't know, nor did anyone else know, that on that day that the Olympic pipeline, which had been traveling through that park for in excess of 30 years, would rupture.
Page 64 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 And you have heard about the series of events, that and the computer failures and the valve restarts, et cetera, and ended up with more than a quarter of million gallons of gasoline cascading down a creek. And these two young boys inadvertently triggered the ignition and saved many, many people's lives, because if this gasoline had proceeded all the way through downtown Bellingham, behind city hall, behind our health department, behind the senior high-rise project and into the bay, there would not have been a tragic accident with three young lives lost, it would have been a tragic accident with perhaps dozens. So these boys were inadvertent heros. They were playing in the park after school as they are supposed to do.
Now I have a community that is looking at me and asking me, how will we ever feel safe with this here again?
I would like to review some lessons that I have learned here. First I learned this need not have happened. This did not need to occur. The technology that we have in this country is such that steps could have been taken by this company to avoid this accident occurring. But what you may learn, as I have learned, as you focus on the issue of reauthorization, is that we effectively have a self-regulated industry with, I must say, a bit of an illusion of Federal regulation.
Senator Gorton in his very kind remarks towards me, and I appreciate thembut the important thing is not that I work harder than any individual works hard about pipeline safety, but that we be completely honest about the situation. As Senator Gorton said, he does not believe in reflexive legislation in response to a tragic accident unless there is a real substantive basis for it, and he called forth the reasons that he believed there was room for change. Well, similarly I don't either believe in knee-jerk, you know, legislation to make it look good, make it look like we care, symbolic legislation or symbolic actions by an administration. But I am afraid that what we have in America through the Department of Transportation's Office of Pipeline Safety is a symbolic regulatory agency.
Page 65 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 They tried hard, and they have a good will, and they desire to achieve safety. They have virtually no money for research. They have inadequate staff. And I must tell you they have been living that way for so long that I don't know if I believe whether their commitment is truly to improving safety in the same way that we hear from the National Transportation Safety Board or working collaboratively with an industry that has proven time and time again that it will not be amenable to significant change that will increase safety in our country.
I have learned that because of the preemption by the Federal Government, even those States that would like to participate, that would like to give of their own resources to improve their community's public safety, are effectively unable to do it. The agency provision does not allow anything except for additional inspection by State agencies. It has no additional authority, no ability to fashion requirements for a particular pipeline to reflect the circumstances that they are going through.
Another thing I have learned is, as Chairman Hall mentioned, the testing, there is virtually no testing of operators. You need a license to drive a car, but not to drive a pipeline. There are no rulesthere are new rules related to training of pipeline operators, but they are entirely self-administered by each individual company. I have learned that although when you add a deck to the back of your home you have to get a building permit, you have to go to the building department, the building official, and determine whether or not it is safe, whether you are meeting the codes, but if you want to put in an interstate pipeline, that is not the case. You just get to build it, and they will trust that you will do it the way you are supposed to, and you might be audited at some time down the road to make sure that you did it the right way. Maybe. But there are more than 2 million miles of pipeline in the United States, including gas lines, and there are 52 inspectors. So the odds that you are going to be looked at very closely are pretty low.
Page 66 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 Perhaps the most important thing I have learned is the accident that happened in Bellingham, though it was unique and tragic for our community, is like other accidents that have happened in the past, and unless things are changed, they will happen again in the future. And the kind of change that needs to take place is one where the Federal Government either decides that having preempted the field in taking the entire responsibility for pipeline safety, that it will fulfill its obligation that goes with it, or it will engage in realistic partnerships with the States to allow those States that want to protect their citizens to a greater degree, give them the ability to do that, not in the way that it interferes with interstate commerce.
Look at the success that has occurred with regard to the Clean Water Act and the Clean Air Act where there is a delegation of Federal authority. The Federal agency that is involved has minimum standards to ensure that the public health is protected, the public safety is protected. But there is flexibility to allow for the unique circumstances of our States.
Finally I learned that even though we have had this long series of accidents throughout the country, whether it be Edison, New Jersey, or Reston and Herndon, Virginia, or the 1980 leak of the Colonial pipeline and the 1996 million-gallon leak near the Reedy River in Fork Shoals, South Carolina, or the 33 people that were killed in San Juan, Puerto Rico, I am not bringing these things up in order to rehash historic events, but just to say there is a pattern. They keep happening. And if we don't change something, they will happen again. There will be more boys whose lives are lost. There will be more rivers whose environments are damaged or destroyed.
But I do want to caution you, and that is with regard to the issue of third-party damage. You will hear from many people that the primary cause of fuel accidents, fuel pipeline accidents, is third-party party damage. You will hear that from industry, and you will hear it from the Office of Pipeline Safety and from many State agencies. And the reason you will hear it is to a certain extent it is true. Now, it is not a majority of spills, but it is a significant number. But I ask you to think, I ask you just to consider what other extremely hazardous business in the United States with a defined and extraordinarily well-documented and known high-risk-incident kind of activity is able to use that activity as an excuse, as exculpation, as to why it is not our fault because it was third-party damage.
Page 67 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 When the FAA, when the Federal Government determined that the likelihood of terrorism or skyjacking was real, they took action to prevent it from happening. When the National Transportation Safety Board makes recommendations to the FAA, they are generally followed. When we learnwhen I was a kid, as you all know, we didn't have seat belts in cars, but we learned over time that there are things that are in the community interest to do because though it may not be the fault of the manufacturer of the automobile, it is our objective to protect the lives of our citizens.
So third-party damage is not an excuse for the fuel companies; actually it is a reason why they need to be even more vigilant.
I would recommend that you keep your mind open when it comes to reauthorization here. Keep your minds open for realistic solutions that I think can be brought forward to attend to the issues that have been identified over the years, such as better partnerships with State agencies; such as requiring, where the pipelines are capable of receiving the smart pigs, requiring that they be done; and requiring that someone other than the pipeline company review the results, because now no one does unless the inspector just happens to stop by.
There is a lot that can be done. And I know that you want to prevent these kind of events from happening again, but honestly, doing the same old thing the same old way in the future is going to yield the same results we have had in the past. So I think you can make a huge difference, and I really appreciate the opportunity you have given me to join with you today. If you have any questions, I will be pleased to answer them.
Mr. FRANKS. Mayor, thank you very much for your testimony.
Let me begin by exploring briefly the safety plan that was negotiated after the accident occurred. Mr. Kuprewicz, maybe you could help me with this because the mayor indicates you were a major player in that process. Talk to me about what kinds of issues you sat down and discussed with the pipeline operator at that point.
Page 68 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 Mr. KUPREWICZ. Well, the discussion focused on things that a prudent pipeline operator operating such a hazardous-type material in a high-density population area such as Olympic Pipelines would operate as, certain things we would be looking for that a person just as good business practice ought to be doing. And they focused onand I will probably miss a few of thenthe integrity of the pipeline; what can we do to ensure the confidence that it was of highest integrity. We also focused on things like management process to ensure that the way the pipeline is designed, maintained, and operated is such that it would be in sync with the risk related to operating a pipeline in a high-density area.
The nature of the surge analysis, you probably heard a lot about that in the past; what equipment in the pipeline could cause pressures that would exceed normal operating pressures and how often.
And then also, again, I am probably missing some things, leak detection and the ability to have leak detection independent of a SCADA system. That is not unusual to have SCADA systems go down, which means if you are relying on that for a major catastrophic leak, OK, you are then blind.
And those are the ones that kind of come to my mind real quick.
Mr. ASMUNDSON. We also focused on staffing and the training of staff, and, if I can follow up, Mr. Chairman, one of the things that is important to note is that it is very unusual that a municipality was able to engage in a very extensive and detailed safety program with a pipeline company and for the simple reason that the Federal Government has preempted this field. We have no authority to engage in setting safety regulations for a pipeline, and we didn't do that technically.
The reason we are able to do this was that the land that the pipeline crossed through, our park, is city-owned land, and the agreement with the city of Bellingham that was entered into in the 1960's for use of that land had expired. And so for Olympic to be able to continue to cross our land, we were able to negotiate with thesewith themwith these terms as it were in the form of rent, not as regulations.
Page 69 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 We believe, however, that these are the kinds of things that need to be looked at with regard to pipelines. We just wish they would be looked at before accidents and not afterwards.
Mr. FRANKS. In that vein, has the OPS been involved with any of these discussions that you have had with Olympic?
Mr. ASMUNDSON. They haven't been negotiating with us, but we have identified and sent copies of this information to them periodically as we are working through to make sure that there was nothing we were going to negotiate or require that would cause them any heartburn or difficulty.
Mr. FRANKS. I am looking at it from the other side of the coin. Mr. Kuprewicz indicated that some of these steps that were negotiated were particularly appropriate given the densely populated nature of the pipeline running through Bellingham. We have OPS telling us this morning that they will be issuing early next year new regulatory requirements as it relates to pipelines operating in environmentally sensitive and densely populated areas. I was just wondering if they were sharing that.
Mr. ASMUNDSON. Yes we shared the information. They have adopted certain provisions of this safety plan and incorporated them into their corrective action order on Olympic pipeline, which was one of our objectives.
Mr. FRANKS. Mr. Hunter, you said something that sent chills up my spine, candidly. You talked about hazardous response teams falling on hard times financially. Quantify that. What do you mean? Have some of these literally stopped operating?
Mr. HUNTER. The fire service finds it very expensive, and I don't have numbers for you, but I can tell you, for example, my hometown in Olympia, the professional full-time hazardous materials response team that is a part of the fire department is closing. That team will no longer exist. This has happened in others as well. It is very expensive to run these teams. We were advised, and I say we, Mayor Asmundson and I are both in this committee of Governor Locke's, and we are advised by the fire service that the training and the equipping of these teams is just prohibitively expensive for many of these communities. So there is something of a trend of these closures.
Page 70 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 Mr. FRANKS. Mr. Wise.
Mr. WISE. Let me continue in that vein. In the State of Washington, who funds the hazardous materials response team?
Mr. HUNTER. I am a little bit out of my depth there, it is local government. Perhaps the mayor can speak to that as well. But it is local fire departments.
Mr. ASMUNDSON. There are three types of hazardous response teams in Washington. There are fire-department-base, there are industry-based, and there is military-based. There areI believe the number is about 25 hazardous material response teams in the State of Washington. Eight of them are affiliated with different military installations. Another half dozen or more are industry-provided, such as the oil refineries and other large industrial complexes. The remainder, which is not very many, do arise out of local fire departments.
They are extremely expensive to maintain. We have one in Bellingham that is a joint venture between the Bellingham Fire Department, the ARCO refinery and the Tosco refinery, and receive significant funding for equipment from the refineries.
Mr. WISE. So in that case, then, though it is the city of Bellingham that actually operates the hazardous material teams, but with funding from the industry.
Mr. ASMUNDSON. They provide the equipment, we provide the staffing. We train and pay the staff.
Mr. WISE. That training is very expensive.
Mr. ASMUNDSON. The training is very expensive, and the firefighters who are the trained personnel are very expensive.
Mr. WISE. In Bellingham is yours a volunteer?
Mr. ASMUNDSON. No, we have a full-time staffed department.
Page 71 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 Mr. WISE. Do the industry teams respond to nonindustry events?
Mr. ASMUNDSON. They are available to respond to any event provided that they are not already involved in something on their facility site. It has been very cooperative, and the industry teams have been very outstanding in their participation and cooperation with local governments.
Mr. WISE. Mr. Chairman, I would just like to, I guess, get a little bit of a plug in here. Hopefully our committee, it goes beyond this issue, but the hazardous materials and emergency response, hazardous materials response, is a critical issue for all of our States and localities. We have all had experience, regrettably, in our own areas with hazardous material situations. And I think we need to be supplying the local authorities more. Whether it is more resources, more training, we need regional response teams, but at any rate my hope would be that over time our committee could be looking at that as well.
Mayor, I just want to thank you. We have talked before, and you have certainly been incredibly diligent in bringing to the Congress's attention the Bellingham tragedy and what needs to be done. I appreciate the efforts that you have made.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. FRANKS. Thank you Mr. Wise.
Mr. METCALF. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. The questions I have have already been asked and answered exceptand the one I have is sort of partially covered, but I would like to go over it again. The mayor and Mr. Kuprewicz, have you done any research in specific safety improvements that could be applied to pipelines such as increased trench depth, double-walled pipelines, hydrocarbon sensor cables, that was mentioned; and in your opinion, should the issue be studied further?
Mr. ASMUNDSON. I will let Rick answer all the technical stuff, but, Doctor, I don't know if you are aware of this or not, but lawyers who become elected officials think they are amateur engineers, so I do a little bit of that, but I will do it in the general sense, but not in the specific.
Page 72 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 What we have discovered in this crash course in learning about pipelines and pipeline safety is that perhaps theit is hard to rank the greatest need in the industry because there are several needs in order to provide adequate community safety. But in order to address a very significant one, it is required that additional emphasis, effort and perhaps research be focused on keeping an older pipeline up to date with changes in technology. And I will let Rick talk about the specifics, but one of the real flaws or weaknesses that we have seen in thein the field on the ground is that these old pipelines don't get brought up to current technology. They don't get improved to reflect what can happen in the world. Oh, a goodsome of them do. A real prudent operator will do that. But there is no impetus from the agency to upgrade these lines, so theyas a consequence they just get older and older and older without getting any better.
Mr. KUPREWICZ. On the leak detection front, I think you will find there is a misperception out there that leak detection will capture leaks. What it does is capture certain type of leaks. The bigger the leak, the better the chance. In this case this one failed for whatever reason. So on the smaller-type leaks, that may be real important for protecting groundwater, and that there needs to be evolving technology. I would not just focus on computer computational monitoring systems, computer monitoring systems, I would tend to support looking at external leak detection systems and pushing that technology. I am not saying that they all work either, but there is a real need in the industry to have this secondary system independent of computers or computer monitoring.
Also in particular high-risk areas, wherever they may be, whether it is high population or drinking water, the evolving technology, there has been a lot of emotion between double-bottom tanks or double-walled tanks. Again, I would describe that as an evolving technology that should be looked at at a case-by-case basis. The industry should be looking at that seriously if it is going to prevent these kind of events.
Page 73 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 Mr. METCALF. That is all the questions I have,
Mr. COOKSEY. [Presiding.] I appreciate your comments. But the engineer, let me ask you, what is the status of the restoration of the area thatwhere the burn was? It was obviously very badly burned. And what is the restorationfrom the restoration standpoint, as far as the trees coming back, what is the water like, or can you fish there again?
Mr. HUNTER. Well, the biologists working on this are encouraged and a little bit surprised at the amount of vegetation growing back on the banks. We thought that perhaps this soil was so cooked that it wouldn't grow anything for a very long time. There is still small amounts detected of gasoline, as I recall. And the restoration effort was in two phases. It was an emergency phase to try to get the creek as clean as possible for a salmon return, I think for around the end of August, and now we are into a long-term restoration, all the terms of which I don't think have been decided yet, but clearly will take years and years. It is very unfortunate.
Mayor Asmundson knows this better, but this was a community project creek that had been laboriously and lovingly rebuilt by the citizens of Bellingham for a salmon return when this happened.
Mr. ASMUNDSON. TheI can add that the recovery, emergency recovery effort was wonderfully done. It was wonderfully coordinated and orchestrated, and the response to this incident has been very, very good, including the response by Olympic Pipeline Company. I need to make sure that that is clear. They have been very responsible and very active in every aspect of the response. But what we find in the creek is that nature is wonderful and bountiful, and fish are returning and spawning near the area where theand some in the area where the fire occurred. That is a result of an incredible amount of work that was done, work that you don't see very often, which is excavating machines in creeks, agitating and stirring up to release hydrocarbons, seeing people with high-pressure hoses blasting in a creek shortly after the accident. But it seems to have worked. And while it will take many, many, many decades for the full interrelation of the ecology of this park to work, the streambed itself has been cleaned and is coming back to life.
Page 74 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 Mr. COOKSEY. Mr. Kuprewicz.
Mr. KUPREWICZ. Kuprewicz. That is fine. It won't be the first time.
Mr. COOKSEY. Theoretically should most of the gasoline have burned if you had a fire that was that bad?
Mr. KUPREWICZ. The nature of gasoline, it forms a heavier-than-air vapor cloud which is more disastrous than a natural gas. It tends to stay closer to the ground, flow like water. It might be 30, 40, 50 feet in height. When it reaches ignition source, it burns with tremendous energy. It releases five to six times the energy of natural gas. It is unbelievable.
Mr. COOKSEY. So why would there be a residue of gasoline left if it burned?
Mr. KUPREWICZ. What happens is the ignition point is tremendous heat release, and it may or may not take all the fuel because it just burns the fuel that is available instantaneously. So it is not unusual to see residual gasoline, to be more specific to answer your question.
Mr. COOKSEY. So is some of the gasoline still in the ground?
Mr. KUPREWICZ. Trace parts would be. I assume, given the amount of activity that is going out there, it will be a while before it all goes away.
Mr. COOKSEY. The fish are there.
Mr. ASMUNDSON. I have seen the fish. I watch them come up the creek behind city hall. Actually that has become a new occupation of mine when I take my breaks is to see if fish are coming up. And they are, yeah.
Mr. COOKSEY. How wide is the creek? Is it aswider than this room?
Page 75 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 Mr. ASMUNDSON. No.
Mr. COOKSEY. Half this width?
Mr. ASMUNDSON. On average about half to two-thirds of the width of this room.
Mr. COOKSEY. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. FRANKS. [Presiding.] Thank you, Dr. Cooksey.
Mr. Hunter, Mayor Asmundson, Mr. Kuprewicz, thank you very much for testifying this afternoon.
We will now hear from our next panel, Mr. Frank King, the father of Wade King; and Mr. Carl Weimer, representing the SAFE Bellingham organization.
Mr. and Mrs. King, let me begin, if I can, let me on behalf of all the members of the subcommittee express our heartfelt sorrow for your loss as a parent. I know all of us as family people can only imagine the devastation and the loss that you have suffered. We are extraordinarily grateful that you would come to Washington today to help us sort through all of this and help us find answers to avoid these kinds of incidents ever taking place again. Again, you have our heartfelt thanks for your travel here and for coming forward to be willing to express your thoughts today. We are particularly grateful for that.
Mr. KING. Thank you.
Mr. FRANKS. Mr. King.
TESTIMONY OF FRANK KING, FATHER OF WADE KING; AND CARL WEIMER, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, RE SOURCES/SAFE BELLINGHAM, ON BEHALF OF SAFE BELLINGHAM, ACCOMPANIED BY DAVID A. BRICKLIN, ESQ., BRICKLIN & GENDLER, LLP
Mr. KING. Mr. Chairman, members of the committee, I came back because I wanted to tell you what a special little boy this little boy was. I don't know if I can do this within 5 minutes, but I am going to try. This was a little boy that at 5 years old came home from summer camp and sat at the dinner table with his mom and said, Mom, I have invited Jesus into my heart. And his older sister, who is now 28we also have an older son who is 26said, Mom, what are youwhat kind of a camp are you sending this kid to? And he looked at his sister rather disparagingly, and he said, Sis, you have to ask Him in, He just doesn't come.
Page 76 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 Not too long before this accident happened, my wife and he were talking about a neighbor up the street whose brother-in-law had passed away, and, you know, how sad they were and how he just didn't want to go. And Wade said, Mom, he is in heaven with God. It is beautiful in heaven. And his mom said, well, Wade, if God asked you to come, would you go? He said, no, Mom, he said, I am just having too darn much fun down here.
This is a 10-year-old child. If I walked into his classroom, he would get up out of his chair, walk across the room, hug me, and look up at me and say, I love you, Dad. Along with his mom, Mary and I used to take walks in the morning. We would walk past his bus stop. If you can imagine a little boy at his bus stop in front of all of his friends yelling across the street, Dad, I love you; Mom, I love you. I couldn't do that when I was a little boy. I wouldn't embarrass myself like that in front of my friends.
All I had to do is look at the number of people who attended his funeral and realize how many lives this little 10-year-old boy touched and how fortunate I was to have him in my life for 10 years.
I am going to have my wife read the letter from Wade, which Father Bob wrote the night before his funeral, which it describes this little guy to a T.
Mrs. KING. A letter from Wade. Dear Mom and Dad, Sis, Bro, Lynn, Jessica, Grandma Dorothy and all, I wanted you to a know I arrived safely. Jesus met me and led the way. This is an awesome place. I asked him what happened, and He told me a gas pipeline ruptured and exploded in the park, filling the creek where Steve and I were playing. I told Him I thought that was a dumb place for a pipeline. And He said something like we humans still have a problem with foresight, whatever that means.
Anyway, this place is just out of sight. And guess what, I don't have any burns and no pain. And all they tell you about Jesus is true. He loves us all and said He would take care of you, Mom and Dad, and everyone else back in Bellingham.
Page 77 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 I can't make up my mind what I like best about this place, because time doesn't matter. We can sleep when we want, eat when we want, and the food is fantastic. You know how I like food. And sports are always being played. This morning Steve and I counted at least 12 baseball diamonds with games going on at all of them. Some of the greats were playing. That DiMaggio guy and Mickey Mantle, I guess they were pretty good, weren't they, Dad? By the way, I got to watch the Mariners on Saturday. Way to go, guys. I knew we could beat those Ferndale guys. It was a special hookup because they knew how important this game was to me.
Mom, I hope you are not too sad and mad at me. I know I have caused a lot of people to be sad. But tell everyone I am fine, especially all the kids and teachers at Roosevelt. My education will continue. I have a lot of stripes to earn before I become an angel. Can you imagine that? Me an angel. Yeah, I know. I can hear you all laughing, Wade with wings? Just imagine that. But you can bet I am going to be the best angel possible.
Tell my fourth grade Sunday school class at St. Paul's that they should study the Bible. It has all that really matters in life. That will be my biggest task along with all the regular subjects.
I want you to know, too, how special a send-off you and Father John gave me at Harborview. Having you there gave me the strength to face the darkness until Jesus came for me. I miss you all very much. And Jesus told me how much you all miss me, and then I pointed out that we can always replay the tape of our lives to remember those special moments. Then He reminded me of the time He said, I am with you always. Well, He said that the same is true of us, I will be with you in spirit forever, just as Jesus is with you. I gave Jesus a high five when he reminded me of that. He is a cool guy.
You know, we touched each other in life. I touched you, and you touched me. Each of you went into making me who I am, and I would like to think I helped you be who you are. If that is so, then I can continue to live in you and you live in me.
Page 78 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 Finally, thank you for celebrating my life today. It is special to know how much you are loved. I know I am one very much loved boy, and I love you all, too. Jesus says that that is the key to life, loving each other. Remember His commandment, love one another as I have loved you. I love you all. Wade. Amen.
Mr. KING. As you know, my wife and I have been married for 30 years. We just celebrated our 30th anniversary. We have two older kids. One is 28, one is 26. Our daughter is 28. She is married. Our son is 26. We were all in attendance when Wade was born. We were all in attendance when Wade died.
I think my wife and I have probably suffered the greatest penalty that a parent can suffer. How do I erase the image of two children standing in Steven Tsiorvas' yard, trying to console them with the skin burned off above their ankles. All within 150 yards of our own safe home?
What penalty has Olympic Pipeline suffered? Well, yeah, between ARCO, Shell, Texaco, and Olympic Pipeline, they have had to reduce the amount of gallonage that runs through the southern portion of this line from 7.9 million gallons a day to 6.9 million gallons a day. Consequently, their revenues in 138 days since this accident has happened were only, only 1,142,640,000 between the owners of Olympic Pipeline and Olympic Pipeline.
All we really want is answers. We want to know why did this happen? We know what happened. We know the pipeline ruptured. We want to know why this happened. And the only answers Olympic Pipeline can give us while their eight employees are pleading the fifth amendment and still on the job, is, gosh, we are sorry this happened. When can we start up again?
The thing that I have asked, and I have been relentless in my pursuit with the NTSB, the Office of Pipeline Safety, SenatorCongressman Metcalf, Senator Murray, Senator Gorton, I have even talked to Congressman John Dingell's office, the thing I have asked is why is this pipeline still running south of here when they haven't told us why? If this accident had occurred in Mt. Vernon, it wouldn't be open. They wouldn't be running. But because there happens to be two refineries in Anacortes and the pipeline runs into Bayview, they are still allowed to run their gas down this pipeline.
Page 79 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 I have talked to the Office of Pipeline Safety. I have asked them on numerous occasions, can you give me a logical reason as to why this pipeline is still running? Nobody did give me that. And I am willing to listen. And if anybody in this room can give me a logical reason as to why this pipeline is still running, I am willing to listen, as long as it is a logical reason.
The problem that Olympic Pipeline is facing is they don't want to hydrostatically test their line because they would have to shut it down between Ferndaleor between Bayview and Portland. They can run smart pigs through it as long as oil product is flowing through it. And then why would we allow them to run smart pigs through it again? They found three anomalies, three anomalies or defectsI guess anomaly is kind of a nice word for defectin the very pipe that split that took my son's life in 1996 in their pig run and in 1997 again in their pig run, and it is in a known area where there has been construction.
The NTSB has told me that had that line been looked at, had it been dug up and had they looked at it individually, they would have definitely replaced it. The NTSB has also told me that had it been replaced, my son would still be out in the front yard skateboarding. The Office of Pipeline Safety has told me that had it been hydrostatically tested in 1996 or 1997, it would have split. They would have replaced it.
All I want is two things: I want this line hydrostatically tested because that will serve to shut this line down until such time, and it will also serve the purpose of making the public aware that this line is safe. I don't want another parent in 10 years, 15 years or 25 years to be testifying before someone on this committee that their son died of a pipeline accident that could have and should have never happened.
The second thing I want is I want Olympic Pipeline to tell us why this happened. If they can do that tomorrow, and they can assure the public that this line is safe tomorrow, I am a happy camper. But in the meantime, I guess all that really matters is the money that is flowing through that pipe. And that is one of the frustrating things that I am running into now.
Page 80 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 Everybody has talked about the Office of Pipeline Safety allowing the pipeline industry to regulate itself, and, you know, I am not saying that that is a bad way to go, but if you don't make the pipeline industry accountable, and accountable is a word that I have brought both sets of my kids up with, if you don't make them accountable for an accident, why would they police themselves? If you make them accountable for their own actions, you shut them down, you make them cooperate with the NTSB, then the pipeline industry will start to police itself, and then the Office of Pipeline Safety can use its lax regulations, et cetera, because the pipeline industry will be going after one another saying, what are you doing to make your lines safe? How can we make our lines safer?
That is all I really wanted to say to you. I hope I made my son come alive to you, because I don't want pipeline safety issues to be buried along with him. Thank you.
Mr. FRANKS. Mr. King, thank you very much.
Mr. WEIMER. Chairman Franks and the members of the subcommittee, thank you for this opportunity to testify. I appear here today on behalf of SAFE Bellingham. With me is David Bricklin, who is a member of the SAFE Bellingham steering committee and has years of experience in pipeline issues. I am neither a lawyer nor an engineer. I am an environmental educator. I work for an organization that teaches kids about recycling and air and water quality issues. We believe that by each person learning about the natural world and then taking responsibility for their actions, real environmental progress can be made. We also believe that our message may fall on deaf ears if kids never have positive experiences in the natural world. Things like canoeing, hiking, hunting and fishing are the foundations of environmental education.
On June 10th, Liam Wood was doing exactly what I as an environmental educator would hope a young man his age would choose to do on a warm spring day. He went fishing in the gorge of a beautiful creek lined with 100-foot trees and dripping with moss and ferns. It was an incredible Northwest scene. Perhaps he went out of the love of the sport, or perhaps he was just trying to let the sounds of the creek wash some cares away, whatever the reason, he found more than anyone in our community could ever have dreamed of. While fishing on June 10th, Liam Wood found a quarter million gallons of gasoline flowing down the beautiful creek in the heart of our city. The fumes overwhelmed him, and he fell in the creek and drowned before the fuel was even ignited. When ignition occurred, a fireball exploded, burning two other young children to death.
Page 81 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 That such a beautiful place could turn so terrifying in just an instant is one of the visions that has mobilized the citizens of Bellingham to work to make such a needless tragedy never happen again anywhere in this country.
Such a vision still haunts many of us with children, and it is the main reason I am here today talking with you, the people who can make sure that it doesn't happen again.
Just yesterday I received a letter from the mother of Liam Wood. It was very difficult for her to write. If possible, Mr. Chairman, I would ask that this is submitted as testimony today.
Mr. FRANKS. Without objection, so ordered.
[The letter follows:]
Mr. WEIMER. SAFE Bellingham came into existence shortly after this tragic event as the community tried to come to grips with the pain, shock and sorrow. In the aftermath we have learned many things, and sadly, one of the first things we learned was some of the most fundamental aspects of pipeline safety are not properly addressed by current Federal law.
At this time I would like David Bricklin, who has got more years of experience with pipelines, to talk about some of our specific concerns with pipelines.
Mr. BRICKLIN. Thank you, Carl. Members of the committee, you have heard a lot of this today, and I want to elaborate on a few points that you have heard.
First with regard to hydrotesting, you have heard that there is no general Federal regulation requiring hydrotesting. You have also heard from the Office of Pipeline Safety that if done incorrectly, hydrotesting can damage the pipe. But I want to make certain the committee is clear that if done correctly, hydrotesting is not dangerous to the integrity of the pipe. The State of California, for instance, requires regular hydrotesting of pipelines in that State every 2 or 5 years, depending on other factors. Even the Office of Pipeline Safety requires hydrotesting of certain pipes. And, in fact, in the corrective action order following the Bellingham accident, they are requiring hydrotesting of this pipe for certain segments of it, and, in fact, at pressures higher than the normal hydrotesting pressures.
Page 82 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 So please don't be confused that hydrotesting per se is damaging to the pipes. If it is done correctly, it is an excellent tool for identifying leaks that are invisible to the internal inspection devices.
Second, as to the internal inspection devices, you have heard there is no Federal regulation requiring the use of these smart pigs, but more than that, as the Chair alluded to in some of his questions, there is a need not just for a requirement that pigging be done, but that we use the results meaningfully. In this case, as you have heard earlier, there were smart pigs run in this section of the pipeline. In fact, the reason I think the public is aware of this is because I happened to have those test results in my office before the pipeline even exploded because of another matter I was involved on.
And the Department of Justice attorney came to my office to look at these recordsI don't know if they couldn't or hadn't yet obtained them from the companyI remember that moment, sitting at the conference table in my office, flipping through the pages of the test results, seeing, first of all, that there were hundreds of these anomalies and searching for the milepost of interest to see if there was an anomaly there, and my mouth fell open when I saw not one, not two, but three anomalies right in the vicinity of where this pipeline burst. And we have seen in the NTSB testimony today they have now verified that one of those anomalies, labeled as a wrinkle bend, appears to be precisely at the location of the burst.
What was done with this information? The company did not dig up the pipeline at that location to determine whether there was, in fact, a real problem based on the electronic images that they had received from the pig. They had hundreds of these. It is very expensive for them, or relatively expensive for them, to dig up each and every anomaly and visually inspect it. And so they do a cost-benefit analysis from their perspective. What is the risk that one of these is really going toone of these electronic images is really going to be a defect of the pipe, and if it is a defect, is it going to be a defect of a great enough significance that is going to warrant repair? So they go through a cost-benefit calculus. What does it cost? How much is the risk? That threshold is set by the company for itself, not the government. There is no regulator looking at them and making sure they make that determination in a responsible way.
Page 83 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 Now, you have to put yourself in the position of a manager of the pipeline. Most of these anamolies on the elctronic images are going to be false alarms. Even if they are a defect, it is not leaking now, they think. Maybe it is not going to leak for 5 years or 30 years. I am going to be long gone by then, they think. And so you have a management structure which does not encourage the same level of safety and examination of these defects as I think could be made mandatory through appropriate Federal regulation.
There is also effective no Federal regulations dealing with systems to prohibit overpressurization of the pipeline, so-called fail-safe systems. There is a Federal regulation that says do not exceed 110 percent, but there is nothing to back that up.
Also, there are no effective Federal regulations that generally require valves to stop large amounts of product being released from a pipeline if there is a leak or rupture.
We have already heard from the Mayor and others about the advantages of allowing the States to regulate pipeline safety if they choose to. I would note that in other arenas we have done that; Congress has done that successfully. For instance one of the competitive modes of transportation is trucking. Trucks are subject to safety regulations in each State, and they actually move across State lines. Why can't we have the States regulate the pipelines? After all, at least the pipelines are stationary. There is not actually an interstate movement of the pipe itself. There is no reason why the States couldn't responsibly take on that role.
Finally I want to note in the wake of the Exxon Valdez accident, Congress mandated the creation of independent citizen oversight councils. These councils have worked well in Alaska. We would like Congress to consider similar legislation for oil pipelines. An independent citizen advisory council would play a major role in increasing public awareness of pipeline safety spill issues, spill prevention and environmental protection. In Bellingham on June 10th, we learned that while pipelines are out of sight, they cannot always be put out of mind. A citizen advisory council can play a major role in ensuring that dangerous pipelines, while out of site, are never out of mind again. Thank you.
Page 84 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 Mr. FRANKS. Thank you, Mr. Weimer.
Mr. King you indicated your most intense desire is to try to find out not what happened, we know that, but why it happened.
Mr. KING. Yes, sir.
Mr. FRANKS. Are youhow do you feel about the work of the NTSB, of OPS, of EPA? Do you feel as if we are going to get the answers that you are seeking?
Mr. KING. Well, first of all, let me say that Chairman Hall, Kelley Coyner, and everyone in their offices has been extremely cooperative and responsive to me, and I can't tell you how much I appreciate it. I guess I keep getting this obviously the NTSB is the investigative arm. The only regulatory agency that I can find is the OPS. And, you know, I guess it is like Congressman Dingell describes them, it is like putting the robbers in charge of the bank. And I believe that Kelley Coyner is trying to do some things, but her attorneys, you know, tell her that she didn't have the ability to do this. And, you know, somebody has got to take the bull by the horns, and maybe she needs to overstep her bounds. I mean, it is the Federal Government that Olympic is fighting here. Alan Greenspan doesn't need to talk to Congress to raise interest rates.
Mr. KING. And he has done a marvelous job as well keeping our economy going, and delicately. I don't understand why the Office of Pipeline Safety doesn't have that same regulatory authority, and that is what I understand they have.
Mr. FRANKS. Mr. Wise.
Mr. WISE. Mr. Weimer, on page 5 of your testimony, you mention specific exemption from certain safety management practices for the pipeline industry. Could you provide some more information about those specific exemptions?
Mr. BRICKLIN. May I respond to that part? Yes. There are regulations, OSHA regulations, covering other parts of the petroleum industry that provide for management procedures to assure safety in the design, operation, and maintenance of, for instance, refineries, and then provides for Federal audits to make certain that management safety procedures are actually in place. The regulations include a detailed 14-step list of points that have to be addressed in these management safety plans, but the pipeline industry is exempt from them.
Page 85 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 Mr. WEIMER. Maybe I can add. One of the things that came out of the safety plan that the city of Bellingham was able to negotiate with the management of the pipeline was such a management audit of the Olympic pipeline. That only came about because of this strange easement thing that the city of Bellingham was able to use as leverage to get this into the Olympic pipeline agreement for that pipeline at this point.
Mr. WISE. Thank you, that is all.
Mr. FRANKS. Mr. Metcalf.
Mr. METCALF. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. and Mrs. King, please allow me to extend my deepest sympathy to and your family. As a parent and grandparent, I applaud you for your courage and persistence. Your testimony, while painful, has been most significant, needed to be heard by this committee, and I thank you for being here.
Mr. KING. Thank you, sir.
Mr. METCALF. And, Mr. Weimer, in your research you found that the safety practices of Olympic Pipeline differ from the practices of similar pipelines around the country, and in what ways? And I see you touched on this a little bit.
Mr. WEIMER. I will let David answer this.
Mr. BRICKLIN. Thank you.
I won't profess to have the national view that would allow me to make a comparison. We do have engineers who we were working with that did have that view. And I think they and I would be both reluctant to rate Olympic vis-a-vis others, but suffice it to say that as we dug into the analysis of Olympic operations, we found many shortcomings, and I mentioned some of them, for instance, in terms of how they dealt with the pig results. Another example relates to the one-call safety system. There has been a lot of emphasis on the one-call safety system, which is used if there is construction in the vicinity of your pipeline, and how we can upgrade that system.
Page 86 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 Well, one of the things that we learned from this accident was that there was construction in the vicinity. The one-call system worked. Olympic was notified that the city contractors were doing work in the vicinity of the pipe, and Olympic inexplicably I'm getting a little bit ahead of the NTSB conclusions here, but I think where they are headedapparently Olympic failed to make certain that their pipe was protected even though they got the call.
So it is not just enough for Congress to make certain that the one-call system gets the news to the operator, but that operator has to take that information and protect their facility once they get it, and Olympic apparently didn't do that.
Mr. WEIMER. I would also like to add, if I can, it really just isn't about Olympic Pipeline. There are problems with the pipelines throughout the country. One of the things our group found, in early August and provided to OPS was the whole issue of low-resistent ERW pipe and how it tends to split along welds. At that time we were told we were kind of barking up the wrong tree, that this really wasn't an issue with this pipe. And it is kind of strange 6 weeks later when they hydropressurized that pipe, that that pipe split along 6 feet of the ERW weld.
Mr. BRICKLIN. If I can just tack one last thing on that is before they did that hydrotest, interestingly what Olympic did was they went back to the pig results, those anomalies that they hadn't inspected before, and in the section they were going now to hydrotest, they went in and dug up those sections and replaced a dozen of them before they did the test.
So they had one failure during the hydrostatic test, but who knows how many more they would have had if they hadn't gone in and finally 5 years later responded to the pig results they had.
Mr. METCALF. I have a question, sort of off the wall perhaps, but what about legal liability? It would seem like the pipelinehow do they do it? Do they have insurance, or are they so large they can insure themselves, or maybe this is a question for them, but.
Page 87 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 Mr. BRICKLIN. I believe Mr. Crognale, the president, is coming. You may want to ask him about that.
Mr. METCALF. I will save that one for him then. Thank you very much.
Mr. FRANKS. [Presiding.] Dr. Cooksey.
Mr. COOKSEY. Thank you.
Mr. and Mrs. King, as a parent, I personally appreciate your being here and your testimony. And I know the difficulty of going through this tragedy again, but we are here to try and prevent this from happening to someone else's child, and I appreciate you being here.
Mr. KING. Thank you.
Mr. COOKSEY. Mr. Weimer, is your organization, the SAFE organization, is it an organization that looks at a lot of safety issues, highways, railroads, or is it just something that was set up to address this problem of safety in regard to pipelines?
Mr. WEIMER. It basically came into being just a few days after this explosion. A number of citizens from neighborhood groups, some health organizations, environmental groups in the community, got together to discuss how citizens ought to respond. We didn't know what the response at that time from the city of Bellingham or the regulators was going to be. We heard enough to know that in many other communities that had spills like this, pipelines were allowed to restart rapidly and there was already rumors that the pipeline was going to be back in the ground and flowing fairly rapidly, that is when the group came together.
Mr. COOKSEY. Are there any other major pipelines that run through Bellingham besides this one?
Mr. WEIMER. There are. There are other pipelines. There is a gas pipeline. There is an application to run a new pipeline through Whatcom County from Williams Pipeline. We actually had another pipeline explosion in Whatcom County. There was already a group in the rural section of Whatcom County that was very interested in pipeline issues, because a Williams pipeline, natural gas pipeline, exploded a few years previously.
Page 88 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 Mr. COOKSEY. So was thisthe other explosion, the other accident, was it a natural gas pipeline; it was not a gasoline pipeline?
Mr. WEIMER. Correct.
Mr. COOKSEY. How many other pipelines are refined petroleum product-type pipelines like the gas line?
Mr. WEIMER. Two pipelines run right through Bellingham. The other oneTransmountainis a crude oil line. We do have two refineries in Whatcom County. There are a number of lines running in and out of Canada to the refineries and then south. So there is natural gas and two crude oil lines. We are blessed with pipelines.
Mr. COOKSEY. Our responsibility, Mr. and Mrs. King, is to try to gather the facts and to try to come up with solutions to prevent anything like this from happening again. And it is difficult for you as family members with a son who is a victim, and I appreciate that, but we also want to try to gather all the facts and to try to make a good decision that will prevent something like this from happening again and make sure that all the parties involved were acting in a responsible manner before the accident and were acting in a responsible manner after the accident. And hopefully we will be able to do that and contribute something to this effort.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. FRANKS. Thank you, Dr. Cooksey. I again want to thank the members of the panel, particularly the Kings, for coming to Washington and testifying for our subcommittee today.
Mr. KING. Thank you.
Mr. WEIMER. Thank you.
Mr. BRICKLIN. Thank you.
Mr. FRANKS. We will now hear from our final panel for this hearing, comprised of the president of Olympic Pipeline Company, Mr. Fred Crognale, accompanied by Dr. Michael Macrander, the project manager for the company for the environmental restoration.
Page 89 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 TESTIMONY OF FRED CROGNALE, PRESIDENT, OLYMPIC PIPE LINE COMPANY, ACCOMPANIED BY DR. MICHAEL MACRANDER, PROJECT MANAGER FOR ENVIRONMENTAL RESTORATION OF WHATCOM CREEK, OLYMPIC PIPELINE COMPANY
Mr. CROGNALE. Mr. Chairman, and members of the committee, my name is Fred Crognale, president of the Olympic Pipeline Company. I appreciate the opportunity to testify before this subcommittee. Accompanying me today is Dr. Michael Macrander, who has responsibility for the environmental assessment and restoration effort at Whatcom Falls Park, the scene of the accident.
Following my remarks, Dr. Macrander will be happy to answer questions you have regarding the important restoration work under way.
Before I begin my remarks, I first want to express again sincere sympathy and condolences to the family and friends of the three young people who died in that accident. This has been a painful experience for me personally as well, as I am a father of two daughters age 11 and 9.
June 10th was the blackest day in the life of our company. On that day, a 34-year record of operating a pipeline without a death or a serious injury ended in the loss of life. There is nothing I can say that will replace that loss. But I do want to talk about the steps we are taking to regain the public trust we have lost.
To that end I would like to focus my remarks upon Olympic's Corridor Safety Action Plan and the steps we are taking to address pipeline safety issues along our entire interstate pipeline corridor. Since the June 10th accident, Olympic's primary focus has been the area in and around Bellingham. Working with the city, we jointly developed a safety action plan that addresses issues regarding the restart and operation of the pipeline. More recently, on October 7th, Olympic's board of directors announced our Corridor Safety Action Plan, which applies many of the same actions we are taking in the Bellingham area to the pipeline corridor.
Page 90 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 Olympic has developed elements of our safety action plan to address each of the areas we understand is being evaluated to determine if they were factors in the June 10 accident by the National Transportation Safety Board and the Office of Pipeline Safety. We are not waiting until after the investigations are complete to take action. Instead we are addressing each area now, regardless of whether it is ultimately found to have been a factor in the accident.
I would like to describe briefly Olympic's actions and future plans in each area being evaluated.
First, investigators are attempting to determine whether an internal database error along with a simultaneous increase in processing demands caused a computer slowdown on June 10th. During the computer slowdown, the controllers were not able to obtain current pipeline information on the computer screens and the process commands to equipment, such as pumps along the pipeline. In response, Olympic has completed an analysis of its software system, has made modifications, upgrades and design changes to its computer system, including an increase of 750 percent of processing capacity.
Valve issues. Investigators also are attempting to determine whether a pressure relief valve may not have functioned properly and was a factor in the June 10th accident. In response, Olympic has tested the valves in the 39-mile part of the pipeline that is not currently operating, and is in the process of testing all mainline valves in the rest of the corridor, to be sure they are working properly. An independent engineering firm has completed an analysis of the placement of main line valves in the Bellingham area, and Olympic has installed four new valves. The same firm will proceed with a similar study of the remainder of the pipeline. Olympic's actions in response to this study will be shared with the public.
Pressure issues. Investigators also are attempting to determine if a pressure increase in the pipe contributed to the accident. In response, Olympic, again through an independent consultant, is conducting surge analyses of the currently closed pipeline and will do so for the entire line. A surge analysis is a computer simulation of possible pressures within the pipeline under various operating conditions.
Page 91 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 Results of the surge analysis reenacting the June 10 accident showed that at the time, the pressure in the pipe at the rupture point was below both its maximum allowable operating pressure and its maximum allowable surge pressure as established under the Department of Transportation regulations. Olympic is interested to learn what weakened that section so that it failed at a pressure below its maximum allowable operating pressure.
Line integrity. Regarding the area of line integrity, the section of pipe that ruptured showed evidence of damage consistent with markings left by construction equipment. In response, Olympic plans to conduct a number of tests.
Olympic has pressure-tested 27 miles of pipe in the Bellingham area in Whatcom County to determine whether the pipe and its fittings are able to withstand pressures well above maximum operating pressures. Olympic is preparing to perform additional hydrotesting as required by the Office of Pipeline Safety.
When Olympic is able to restart the line, the company first will conduct internal inspections of the 39-mile section of the pipeline currently closed, and then the rest of the pipeline corridor. The inspections will be conducted using state-of-the-art devices that check the shape or roundness of the pipe and look for anomalies. The Office of Pipeline Safety will be consulted in the selection of the specific devices that will be used. Following the inspections, Olympic will dig up anomalies detected following industry standards and Department of Transportation regulations. These inspections will be done in cooperation with OPS and the various local communities. Olympic will make any necessary repairs in accordance with standards set by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers and DOT regulations.
Olympic plans to add another step to the internal inspection process. The company will dig up and visually inspect an additional number of anomalies that fall below the applicable standards for excavation. The purpose of this additional step will be to compare the internal inspection data with the visual inspection of the corresponding portion of pipe in order to evaluate the accuracy of the results of the internal inspections.
Page 92 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 In the area of operator controller actions, investigators are evaluating the actions taken on June 10th by the employees who operate Olympic's computer system in Renton. In response, Olympic has devised a retraining and requalification program for its operations controllers. Training also is being provided for the technicians who perform a variety of field tasks. The training of all controllers as well as the technicians who cover Whatcom and Skagit Counties is scheduled to be completed by the first part of November.
Community participation. In the months to come, we plan to work with communities to describe the actions we will take or have taken in each community and gain a better understanding of and clarify the issues raised by community residents.
In conclusion, I would like to point out that the safety action plans I have just described are not an end in themselves, but part of an ongoing effort. We have received the analysis of the pipeline inspections and information from our public outreach and other efforts. We will use this information to determine appropriate next steps.
Thank you for this opportunity to describe Olympic's response to the tragic accident in Bellingham and our efforts to implement our safety action plan. Dr. Macrander and I would be pleased to answer any questions either now or through a more detailed written response.
Mr. FRANKS. Mr. Crognale, what is thewhat was the genesis of your safety action plan; when did it come in being?
Mr. CROGNALE. The safety action plan was developed over several months after the accident. Parts of this plan were developed out of the Office of Pipeline Safety's orders, out of the work that we did with Bellingham on our safety action plan there, as well as our own input.
Mr. FRANKS. So safety action plan grew out of the incident?
Mr. CROGNALE. Yes.
Page 93 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 Mr. FRANKS. The steps that are components of the safety action plan, were those in particular response to something very unique that triggered this accident, some fact that came to light very early on, or did it cause a macrolook at all of your practices as it related to safety assurance and seek to beef up those efforts?
Mr. CROGNALE. Well, it came out of the different factors that both the Office of Pipeline Safety and the NTSB are looking into from the investigation. So it covers a broad range since we don't know the cause of the accident yet and won't know for some time. So we took what they were looking at, the different factors that were involved, computer, valve, pressure, line integrity, employee error, and developed a plan from that.
Mr. FRANKS. Having heard that response you just gave me, it would suggest that this was an effort toin the time that we are still looking for the precise cause of the accidentcovering all the bases that could have been contributing factors and making sure that we are attending to those areas that could potentially be problematic.
Mr. CROGNALE. That is correct. If we waited for the cause, we might not look at a particular issue because then we would know the cause and the weight of the cause. But what we are doing is we are treating each factor like it was the 100 percent reason why the rupture occurred and why the accident happened, and that way we can cover all the factors.
Mr. FRANKS. Could you elaborate for me on the company's practices in terms of the types of inspections that the company did prior to the accident, the nature of the particular testing, and the frequency with which that testing was undertaken, and juxtapose that to what is being done as part of your safety action plan?
Mr. CROGNALE. OK. Basically one of the inspections that we do is a fly-over where we have somebody fly over the right of way. It is a regulation to do it, I believe, 26 times per year or every 2 weeks. We do thatprior to this, we did that every week. And the intent there is to look for construction activity and to look for anything else that might be unusual.
Page 94 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 Another thing that we do is we have cathodic protection on the pipeline, which is to try to reduce the chance for corrosion on the pipe, external corrosion. And we test that cathodic protection, and we have it all up and down the pipeline.
The third thing we do is run internal inspection tools, which has been mentioned before. Olympic's practice was to run internal inspection tools every 5 years. We had some corrosion. We found some corrosion issues with part of the pipeline up north, a several-mile section, so we were doing internal inspection tools every 2 years, once we found that we had some corrosion issues to monitor how well our cathodic protection was doing once we found the issues that we had there.
So those are the kinds of tests that we have done.
If I can, again, I justyou asked me to compare our past testing practice to what we have now. Normally we ran one type of tool. In this case, we are going to be running two different types of tools down the line. At the same time we are going to run what they call a deformation or a caliper pig, which looks for roundness of the pipe, and we will also be running a metal loss pig. Again, we are looking for a corrosion or a metal loss. You can use two different types, ultrasonic or a magnaflux pig, and we haven't decided which. What we are going to do is do the one section up north, up in Bellingham. The city, ourselves, and the Office of Pipeline Safety, will take a look at the results and figure which one is the best from that standpoint on metal loss, and we will run that down the pipe.
Once we do that, then we can make a judgment on how often we should run the pig, you know, whatever the right periodic level to run an inspection tool. So once we get the results, we will be able to make judgments on future and a continuous process forward.
Mr. FRANKS. OPS and NTSB both indicatedand I guess the pattern of practice in the industry is to go out and find an expert contractor who does the pigging itself; is that correct.
Page 95 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 Mr. CROGNALE. Right.
Mr. FRANKS. Is that how you folks handle it?
Mr. CROGNALE. That is correct. We hire a consultant that actually owns the pig and also runs the pig for us. They do the test. They bring back the analysis to us. We sit with them and review, and they give us counsel on which anomalies should be inspected, visually inspected.
In this case, with the safety action plan, we have got a few more things going on from the Office of Pipeline Safety that we are going to be doing. One is the Office of Pipeline Safety will be sitting there with us when we do the review of the test. A second is any anomaly that is found on the top part of the pipe that might be considered third-party damage, we have to dig up. So we will be doing that as well, as part of the order from the Office of Pipeline Safety.
Mr. FRANKS. If that order would have been in effect prior to the incident, could the incident have been avoided?
Mr. CROGNALE. I am not sure, because we have to go back and look at the actual anomalies in the area, and also we have to stillgiven that the investigation is not complete, and that the cause of the accident has not been determined yet, there were three anomalies in the area, but it has not been yet stated by the NTSB that any anomaly was at the actual rupture site or the cause of the rupture. So until we know that, it is hard to speculate.
Mr. FRANKS. Let us talk about for a moment the Olympic pattern of practice prior to the accident. When anomalies were discovered, if you can in layman's terms, describe for the committee how you went about the process of identifying which of those anomalies required some further affirmative action on your part.
Mr. CROGNALE. I guess from a generic standpoint, I can't talk about the particular anomalies, because, again, that is part of the NTSB investigation. And given the protocol that we have with the NTSB, I can't speak on something that they have not made public themselves.
Page 96 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 Mr. FRANKS. I am not talking about in relation to the NTSB.
Mr. CROGNALE. Just from a generic standpoint, we would go about looking at it fromagain, I think it has already been mentionedusing ASME standards, that is mechanical engineers, cited mechanical engineer standards, and the DOT regulations on what should be dug up. And it is a calculation that they use on metal loss basically, depth, length and width.
Mr. FRANKS. OK. This isn't helping me.
Mr. CROGNALE. Sorry.
Mr. FRANKS. That is OK. Let me see if I can get it. These anomalies, what is the criteria for actually going in and digging up the pipe? What type of anomaly or indication triggers that action on your part?
Mr. CROGNALE. Again, it is a review, it is a diagnostic, a judgment that has to be made with the consultant or the contractor that we have coming in. They do it. It is a calculation, it is a measurement, again, of metal loss. So depending on how much metal loss occurred depends on whether you go and visually inspect it or not via the standards we have.
Mr. FRANKS. Does the extent of metal lossis that measured by the pig?
Mr. CROGNALE. Yes, there is measurements that the pig.
Mr. FRANKS. Why do I find this confusing? If it measures the amount of metal loss specifically per anomaly, you would find an empirical standard, you set it and dig it up in those cases where the metal loss was great enough to dig it up.
Mr. CROGNALE. Right.
Mr. FRANKS. That is what we do?
Mr. CROGNALE. Yes, that is correct.
Page 97 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 Now, the test generates a lot of data. I mean, it has to be analyzed. It is not as simple as it just measures it, so we have to do some analytical work. There is a calculation. I don't have it committed to memory.
Mr. FRANKS. Why does it requireof what value is that further analytical work? Just put that in perspective for me.
Mr. CROGNALE. I am not sure I am really capable to do that. I have not been able to do that verbally before.
Mr. FRANKS. But that analytical work is a key component of the determining whether or not we dig up the pipeline at that particular location?
Mr. CROGNALE. Yes.
Mr. FRANKS. And we rely on the contractor who does this pigging to tell us to do that analytical work and tell us whether or not that affirmative obligation is required?
Mr. CROGNALE. Yes. And we work with them as well. I don't think it is just strictly you give it to the contractor itself to say this is what you do. You will review the results. But they are the ones that generates the reports that say these are the things that we are finding and the results.
Mr. FRANKS. So there is an industry standard by this Society of Mechanical Engineers.
Mr. CROGNALE. ASME, yes.
Mr. FRANKS. that governs all of these pigging operations and the identification of anomalies and whether or not a particular anomaly is one that requires the pipeline operator to dig it up?
Mr. CROGNALE. I am not an expert on internal inspections or metallurgy, but.
Page 98 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 Mr. FRANKS. Is the framework that I just spoke to correct?
Mr. CROGNALE. Generally, yes.
Mr. FRANKS. There is a set of criteria, certified by this Society of Mechanical Engineers, the pigging contractor does the pigging, it is viewed against these recognized standards, and where it violates one of those standards or triggers a standard, the pipeline company goes in and digs it up?
Mr. CROGNALE. Correct.
Mr. FRANKS. Does it dig updoes the operator dig up every anomaly that triggers that Society of Mechanical Engineers' framework?
Mr. CROGNALE. We would dig up anything that triggeredyes, exactly, yes. From the standard, ASME standard, yes, we would dig that up.
Mr. FRANKS. The AS.
Mr. CROGNALE. ASME.
Mr. FRANKS. The ASME standard only was triggered against your 1995 or 1996 pigging in a relatively modest percentage of the anomalies that were identified?
Mr. CROGNALE. Yes. As I understand it, yes.
Mr. FRANKS. What was it about the particular anomaliesdid they meet that metal deterioration standard, and the other ones didn't?
Mr. CROGNALE. I think it would be best if we get back to you on that and give you a more detailed explanation of that, because we are getting into an area I was not personally there and could not tell you what judgment was used on every anomaly that we had.
Mr. FRANKS. But these are the judgments that trigger your responsibility to dig up the pipeline at a particular location?
Mr. CROGNALE. Yes.
Page 99 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 Mr. FRANKS. Mr. Wise.
Mr. WISE. Let me just follow, Mr. Chairman, if I might.
The contractor's responsibilityif the contractor does the pigging, the contractor gathers the data, who decides whether something triggers? Does the contractor simply give you a list and say out of 500, 200 you pick, out of 200 anomalies, there are four that trigger this, or does the contractor simply give you raw data, and your company goes over it and decides what triggers the action?
Mr. CROGNALE. My understanding is that we both look over the report and decide what should be dug up. Obviously we are the final deciders on what we would dig up or not. The contractor does the data. It is a very extensive amount of data that is gathered, and a report is generated, and then we go over that. And there are different, many different, complex anomalies, features. They have various different definitions for all of those, and they review those.
Mr. FRANKS. The second question I would like to follow up is you mentioned that the pig goes throughcan we cool that cell phone? Thank you very much.
If I could just make a side note, Mr. Chairman, before I leave this body, I am going to see if I can get a rule that all cell phones have to be turned off or at least haveit can be a pretty disruptive influence.
Mr. FRANKS. Without objection, so ordered.
Mr. WISE. Thank you very much. So much for the Wise legislative package for the year, but I appreciate it, Mr. Chairman, if they were all that easy.
In following up, you mentioned that the pig goes through, and it is not just a matter of metal loss, the pig measures metal loss, but there are otherand you used a word analyticalwhat was the wordthere are other factors that wereto be analyzed. Could youwhat would be those factors? The pig goes through, and it determines the metal loss, you know, how much it is. What other factors would it be? Would it be the kind of material, the product that is going through the pipeline; would it be the velocity? What other factors are there besides metal loss?
Page 100 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 Mr. CROGNALE. Again, I am not a technical expert on inspection, internal inspection tools again. What we would do is look atthere are different types of inspection tools that we have. So there are some that look for metal loss, there are some that look for deformation, roundness of the pipe itself. But for the most part, it is a magnetic flux that has what we have used in the past, and it looks for differences in the magnetic field, and it is looking for metal loss primarily.
Mr. WISE. Mr. Chairman, if it would be all right, what I would appreciate is rather than trying to continue this out, if you would be willing to supply to the subcommittee with a written statement to those two questions that I have asked, and perhaps the Chairman as well, I think that would help the subcommittee greatly.
Mr. CROGNALE. I would be glad to do that.
Mr. WISE. In terms of the safety action plan, you talked about it, a lot of it being worked out with OPS. Do you feelwas it done to simply comply with OPS? Does it in some cases go beyond the OPS requirements or requests? Where is the benchmark here?
Mr. CROGNALE. In certain areas, for instance, in the computer area, we went ahead and acted immediately on the computer and the findings that we had and the plan. So we sped up the plan itself to review and also to implement the changes.
As it pertains to the inspection tools, we committed early on to test the whole entire line with the inspection tools. That was not put in an order until after we had made the commitment to do that.
We worked with the city of Bellingham on the differences between the two metal loss type of inspection tools that we had and decided let us just uselet us run both and figure out which one is the best to use.
On the surge analysis, originally it was surge analysis of the pipe itself of the place where we have got it shut down. We again committed early on that we would do a surge analysis across the whole pipe. The order also stated that we should do the valve placement study in the area and also consider another section of our pipeline on the valve study. Again, we extended that and said we are going to do the whole pipeline.
Page 101 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 The digging up anomalies that don't meet particular standards again is a commitment that we made that we were not ordered to do.
Mr. WISE. Mr. Bricklin made a statement I don't want to leave hanging. He stated that beforeI believe he stated that before some of the hydrostatic testing was done, that your company pulled out some sections of pipe, and I guess my question is a twofold one: Is that the case; and the second is why would that take place?
Mr. CROGNALE. We actually had the pipeline down, so the most prudent thing is while the pipeline was down to go ahead and dig up anything that we knew that was along the pipeline itself, for one. Two, when we did that, we left some of those anomalies in the pipe so that we could do a calibration of the tools that we were going to be putting down through that pipe as well. Some of dig-ups were for us to go ahead and visually inspect and measure, so when we send the pipethe inspection tools down, that we can calibrate to see which one does give a better analysis or a diagnosis of the pipe's condition.
Mr. WISE. You talked about your employees, you developed a requalification program. What are the elements of that?
Mr. CROGNALE. Well, basically we will be going through and have gone through classroom instruction with all the controllers. We will be reviewing hydraulics, link detection model, the status of the system itself. We will be looking at normal procedures, abnormal operating procedures and emergency response. We will be reviewing their interface with the field personnel that we have.
We have also sentand we will be sendingI think this week we should finish thatdown to a simulator, so we have some simulation training so we can set up a control room, a screen, put the controller in front of it, do some what-if analysis, do some scenarios and see how they react to certain things, and to test them on the decision-making process that they use given those different scenarios.
Page 102 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 Mr. WISE. Are these standard practices in the industry now?
Mr. CROGNALE. The actual.
Mr. WISE. These measures that you are introducing.
Mr. CROGNALE. Well, the actual requalification is really coming up with the Office of Pipeline Safety's qualification regulations coming up, I think, in the year 2001, if I am not mistaken. Maybe it is 2002. So some of those were trying to align up with the Office of Pipeline Safety. Much of the training that we are doing is retraining of the individuals themselves.
We are not only doing the controllers, we were also ordered to do the computer programmers as well that were working that day on the computer. And we have actually done two sets. We have actually had them work with experts in one of the parent companies, as well as sending them out to a consultant to review and make sure they are capable and qualified to work on the status systems.
The other thing we have done, which is beyond what we have been ordered to do, is that we are retraining and requalifying field personnel as well out in the field. So we are going over the same thing at different types of jobs, but, again, normal procedure, abnormal, emergency response, one-call, line marking, all of those type of things.
Mr. WISE. All right. Thank you very much.
Mr. FRANKS. Mr. Metcalf.
Mr. METCALF. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Crognale, elected officials up and down the I5 corridor have clamored for hydrostatic tests of the pipeline. It would ease the minds of many State residents to know that your pipeline can stand up to stresses. With that in mind, are you planning such a test? As far as I knowI thought that you were requested to do that, but I am not sure of that.
Page 103 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 Mr. CROGNALE. On hydrostatic test?
Mr. METCALF. Yes.
Mr. CROGNALE. We were required to hydrostatically test Lonestar Pipe.
Mr. METCALF. I see.
Mr. CROGNALE. And what we look at with the hydrostatic test is we believe that the rupture site at the accident itself was not a seam split, it was a defect, and the best tool to detect the defects are internal inspection tools. The hydrostatic tests are normally used for seam splits. When we had the hydrostatic test, and we had the rupture on it, up in the Bellingham area, it was prudent and we followed the Office of Pipeline Safety's order to hydrostatically test the Lonestar Pipe because it had historicalit had shown historical seam splits. The other pipe that we have, my understanding, has not shown historical seam splits.
There are some other problems with hydrostatically testing the pipe. Obviously, you have to depose of the water, the contaminated water, that you are going to use. And in just the 10 miles that we hydrostatically tested the pipe in Bellingham, there was a half a million gallons of water that was used to do that.
Last, and something we would have to work through in great detail, is how we would continue to supply Sea-Tac Airport with product if we were to shut the line down to do that. Other areas can be supplied via marine or via truck, but Sea-Tac is pretty much solely dependent on Olympic Pipeline delivering product to it.
Mr. METCALF. The other question I have is on legal liability. And I wonder, does your company carry insurance for the legal liability, or do you self-insure?
Mr. CROGNALE. Olympic has insurance, various different types of insurance, and we are right now working through what is covered and what is not covered from the accident itself.
Page 104 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 Mr. METCALF. I see. Do they requiredoes the insurance company itself require a high degree of certainty that such accidents don't happen? Are they watching out because they are liable if something goes wrong?
Mr. CROGNALE. I am not sure what procedures or what standards they set from an insurance standpoint on us, what they go through.
Mr. METCALF. OK. Well, thank you.
And to the Chairman, again, I thank you for this hearing. That is allI don't have any other questions.
Mr. FRANKS. Thank you.
Mr. COOKSEY. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Why are you president of Olympic Pipeline? I mean, how long have you been president of the company?
Mr. CROGNALE. I have been president of the company since December of 1998.
Mr. COOKSEY. How long have you been with the company?
Mr. CROGNALE. Well, I have been with basically Shell and then Equalon for 17 years. What weI have been in the pipeline organization probably 10 of those years. We recently did an organizational changearound, I guess it would be the fourth quarter of 1998, and then Olympic became part of my responsibility. I have approximately 40 different pipelines under my responsibility, and one of them is Olympic, and I am the president of Olympic.
Mr. COOKSEY. Are you a mechanical engineer?
Mr. CROGNALE. No, I have a financial background.
Mr. COOKSEY. I see.
Let me ask you, who built this pipeline? Was it built by some of these companies that are the parent companies, or was it built by someone else, or was it acquired by your company?
Page 105 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 Mr. CROGNALE. Well, the company is owned right now by three different companies.
Mr. COOKSEY. Who built it originally?
Mr. CROGNALE. Well, it would depend on who was the owner at that time.
Mr. COOKSEY. Who was the original owner of the pipeline at the time?
Mr. CROGNALE. I don't know who the original owner was. I know Mobil was the original owners of the line back 35 years ago. I am not sure whether Texaco and ShellI know GATX was not involved back then.
Mr. COOKSEY. Do you feel that the construction of technology was good and proper by the standards that were expected at that time, 30 years ago? That would have been in 1969.
Mr. CROGNALE. I don't have any specific data that would say yes or no to that.
Mr. COOKSEY. Where were you 30 years ago when the pipeline was built?
Mr. CROGNALE. Thirty years ago, I was in elementary school.
Mr. COOKSEY. Who was the contractor that did the pig testing?
Mr. CROGNALE. I believe it was Tuboscope.
Mr. COOKSEY. Is that a Washington State company?
Mr. CROGNALE. No, it is across the country national company.
Mr. COOKSEY. Let me go on to something that you were about to answer, and I interrupted you, I am sorry. But can you explain the ownership then of Olympic Pipeline Company?
Page 106 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 Mr. CROGNALE. Olympic Pipeline is a stock company, and it has three owners. One of the owners is Equalon, 371/2 percent. And another owner is ARCO, and it has 371/2 percent. And another company, GATX, has 25 percent.
Mr. COOKSEY. OK. Is the primary function of this pipeline to get jet fuel down to the airport in Seattle?
Mr. CROGNALE. Basically it is to supply gasoline, diesel and jet fuel to markets in Seattle, Olympia, Sea-Tac Airport and Portland, so it moves all three products.
Mr. COOKSEY. I am a pilot, still fly some, but what do you dowhen you test, do hydrotesting, and you put water in the pipelines, what do you do to get all the water out of the fuel that is in there? You know, water in aviation fuel is not too good for airplanes.
Mr. CROGNALE. Right. What we try to do is push the water out with nitrogen, and then we let some drying and venting occur as well. So also we won't be putting jet fuel into that pipeline. At first we will use distiller diesel fuel.
Mr. COOKSEY. I see.
You mentioned you have children. I have grown children. When would you be willing to live close to that pipeline yourself with your children, or when can I be willing to have a home near that pipeline myself?
Mr. CROGNALE. You are asking me personally?
Mr. COOKSEY. Yes.
Mr. CROGNALE. Yes, I would live near that pipeline. Someone asked me that question when I addressed one of the public seminars we had in Bellingham in a library, and I said that I havemy best friend in the neighborhood has two refined product pipelines that go through his backyard.
Page 107 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 Mr. COOKSEY. In your neighborhood or that neighborhood?
Mr. CROGNALE. In my neighborhood. And somebody said, well, you know, is he concerned; and I said, not that I am aware of. And they said, are you concerned? And I said no. And in my mind, you need to be more concerned if you get in your car every day then to be on a pipeline.
Unfortunately, this accident again, this is tragic, and the loss of life is tragic, but it is not something that occurs often.
Mr. COOKSEY. And again my focus is to look at the humanitarian aspect, the morbidity, the mortality, and I am most concerned about preventing another tragedy of this type.
Is it correct that the pipeline was 8 feet deep at the place that it ruptured?
Mr. CROGNALE. It sounds correct, approximately 8 foot deep.
Mr. COOKSEY. How deep would a pipeline have to be for the fluid, the contents of that pipeline, to stay in the ground as opposed to coming up?
Mr. CROGNALE. I think that would be.
Mr. COOKSEY. Fifteen feet, twenty feet?
Mr. CROGNALE. I am not really sure. I think that would be specific to each site and howyou know, what thewhat is surrounding the pipe; is it rock, is it dirt? Maybe Michael speak on that. So it is somewhat specific to the area and to the pipe itself.
Mr. COOKSEY. You are a bioenvironmental engineer; is that correct?
Mr. MACRANDER. I am a biologist, ecologist.
Mr. COOKSEY. Biologist, yes. What is the status of the restoration? I had asked this question. Is it possible to fish in the water, drink the water, swim in the water, wade in the water in that creek yet? Is it safe?
Page 108 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 Mr. MACRANDER. Let me kind of give a little bit of history here. First of all, I would like to say that the environmental restoration and the approach to the environmental restoration in this incident is really unique for this type of incident. And all of the parties are responsible for the unique character of the environmental response and the restoration. We recognized very early on that we had a lot to do, and everyone, like I say, rolled up their sleeves and got busy.
We are committed to a complete restoration of the creek and its uses by the public. Toward that end onthe incident occurred on June 10th. On June 14th, we presented to the city and the other regulatory agencies a conceptual restoration plan in which we identified generally the things that we would do and the structure that we would try to work with, everybody, in order to implement restoration. That is really unheard of in terms of its rapidity and response.
On June 22nd, 11 days after the event, we submitted an emergency restoration plan, which was a document of about 250 pages, where we identified what we perceived to be the main environmental implications and what we would do in the short term to resolve those.
Some of those, as you mentioned, are cleaning up contamination in the creek. There was residual gasoline in the sediments of the creek. We had started monitoring, chemically monitoring, and analyzing the sediments within 24 hours. Within 2 weeks we had people in the stream, as the mayor has already mentioned, disturbing the sediments, allowing the gasoline to vent to the atmosphere, treating this very, very aggressively.
We alsowe knew that we had a fall run of salmon coming back, and we needed to have the stream cleaned enough to receive that fall run of salmon. So we have target of mid-August to get the sediments cleaned, the gasoline out of there, and we met that by getting nondetects at pretty much all sites by mid-August, a little bit of mopping up after that. But the stream is essentially as clean as it was.
Page 109 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 Mr. COOKSEY. Generally it is in good condition.
Mr. MACRANDER. Yes. And the fish have returned.
Mr. COOKSEY. I have no further questions.
Again, this is a tragedy, and I am very sympathetic to the parents, and the parents of all three those individuals that lost their lives there and the tragedy of the situation.
This has been a very good hearing. I am 15 minutes late to another hearing that yesterday was not as orderly and as informative and fair, International Relations, but this is what we are about here in Congress is listening to problems and trying to respond to problems.
And I compliment the Chairman and the staff on having a good meeting. And I appreciate all the people that came here, and I feel like hopefully it will be productive, and hopefully we will be able to come to some good solutions.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. FRANKS. Dr. Cooksey, thank you.
And again, I want to thank all the panelists, all interested members of the public who have attended today. It has been extraordinarily helpful to us building a record that we can move forward with toward reauthorization. Thank you.
[Whereupon, at 1:50 p.m., the subcommittee was adjourned.]