U.S. Regulators Refuse to Release Spill Hazard Estimates for Pipeline from Canada

Wednesday, February 09, 2011
(photo: Thomas Hawk)
The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) is coming under criticism for not releasing a Canadian company’s plans for managing oil spills and estimating a worst-case scenario in the event its pipeline burst in the United States.
The controversy arose after an advocacy group, Plains Justice, filed a Freedom of Information Act request with PHMSA to obtain emergency response plans filed by Kinder Morgan Energy Partners, operators of the Express Pipeline System that carries crude oil from western Canada’s oil-sands region across six U.S. states.
Plains Justice insists the federal agency is being overly secretive with the response plans of Kinder Morgan. It likened PHMSA’s actions to the federal office that regulates offshore oil drilling, arguing: would it be acceptable for the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation, and Enforcement to withhold from the public BP’s emergency planning, given what took place last year in the Gulf of Mexico?
PHMSA officials have been accused before of shielding pipeline operators’ emergency response plans. Last year, the agency’s head, Cynthia Quarterman, told Rep. Ed Markey (D-California) that oil spill plans “have not been made public for no particular reason.”
-Noel Brinkerhoff


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