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Amid Pipeline Incidents, Lax Enforcement at the State Level

The Wall Street Journal has an interesting story today on the role of states in ensuring pipeline safety. Much of the responsibility for enforcing pipeline safety rules is in the hands of the states and, at least in the case of the California Public Utilities Commission — which oversaw PG&E, the owner of the pipeline that exploded in California last month, killing eight people — there appears to be lax enforcement.

The Journal reports:

Federal law dictates how gas pipelines should be built and operated, and the Pipelines and Hazardous Material Safety Administration was created in 2004 to improve safety. But Washington delegates enforcement to 48 states, and in California, the job falls to the Public Utilities Commission—which has just nine pipeline inspectors to police more than 100,000 miles of gas mains and audit utilities.

Over the past decade, the number of CPUC inspectors has stayed steady while the serious incidents reported by utilities have risen. And while California gas pipelines spring thousands of leaks each year and utilities are cited for scores of safety violations, records show companies rarely are penalized, even when accidents kill or maim.

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