Pipeline Safety: Better Data and Guidance Needed to Improve Pipeline Operator Incident Response

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A letter report issued by the Government Accountability Office with an abstract that begins "The Department of Transportation's (DOT) Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) has an opportunity to improve the ability of pipeline operators to respond to incidents by developing a performance-based approach for incident response times. The ability of transmission pipeline operators to respond to incidents--such as leaks and ruptures--is affected by numerous variables, some of which are under operators' control. For example, the use of different valve types (manual valves or "automated" valves that can be closed automatically or remotely) and the location of response personnel ... continued below

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United States. Government Accountability Office. January 23, 2013.

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Description

A letter report issued by the Government Accountability Office with an abstract that begins "The Department of Transportation's (DOT) Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) has an opportunity to improve the ability of pipeline operators to respond to incidents by developing a performance-based approach for incident response times. The ability of transmission pipeline operators to respond to incidents--such as leaks and ruptures--is affected by numerous variables, some of which are under operators' control. For example, the use of different valve types (manual valves or "automated" valves that can be closed automatically or remotely) and the location of response personnel can affect the amount of time it takes for operators to respond to incidents. Variables outside of operators' control, such as weather conditions, can also influence incident response time, which can range from minutes to days. GAO has previously reported that a performance-based approach--including goals and associated performance measures and targets--can allow those being regulated to determine the most appropriate way to achieve desired outcomes. In addition, several organizations in the pipeline industry have developed methods for quantitatively evaluating response times to incidents, including setting specific, measurable performance goals. While defining performance measures and targets for incident response can be challenging, PHMSA could move toward a performance-based approach by evaluating nationwide data to determine response times for different types of pipeline (based on location, operating pressure, and pipeline diameter, among other factors). However, PHMSA must first improve the data it collects on incident response times. These data are not reliable both because operators are not required to fill out certain time-related fields in the reporting form and because operators told us they interpret these data fields in different ways. Reliable data would improve PHMSA's ability to measure incident response and assist the agency in exploring the feasibility of developing a performance-based approach for improving operator response to pipeline incidents."

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Government Accountability Office Reports

The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) is an independent, nonpartisan agency that works for the U.S. Congress investigating how the federal government spends taxpayers' money. Its goal is to increase accountability and improve the performance of the federal government. The Government Accountability Office Reports Collection consists of over 13,000 documents on a variety of topics ranging from fiscal issues to international affairs.

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  • January 23, 2013

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  • June 12, 2014, 7:50 p.m.

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United States. Government Accountability Office. Pipeline Safety: Better Data and Guidance Needed to Improve Pipeline Operator Incident Response, report, January 23, 2013; Washington D.C.. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc302820/: accessed September 25, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.