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Pipeline Safety Enters National Spotlight in 2012

After news broke that human error caused the Enbridge oil spill and fears spread over Keystone XL, pipeline safety moved into the mainstream.

Dec 26, 2012
(Page 2 of 2 )
Protestor in support of Michael Bishop, who's challenging TransCanada in court.

Map of new and old Keystone XL routes through Nebraska.

In Michigan and Indiana, where Enbridge is replacing its ruptured pipeline with a larger capacity line, residents are demanding a greater role in the pipeline approval process. They want the company to take extra measures to protect rivers and wetlands. Frustrated Michigan residents filed lawsuits to force Enbridge to follow local construction ordinances.

The Enbridge and TransCanada pipelines are just two of the many projects being proposed to export heavy Canadian crude to global markets. Canada's booming oil sands industry relies on pipelines to move its product from landlocked Alberta to coastal exports ports. The industry plans to build at least 10,000 miles of pipelines over the next five years, much of it across the United States.

The pipeline boom would further tax the overburdened Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), a small, underfunded agency tasked with monitoring 2.5 million miles of pipelines.

PHMSA was forced to strengthen some of its regulations after a new pipeline safety bill became law in January. Advocates say it does little to address the problems that contributed to the Enbridge spill. And any changes to existing rules are unlikely to be in place before the Obama administration decides whether to approve the Keystone XL in 2013.

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