Back to Publications

An Introduction to Federal Pipeline Safety Regulations

Paul Biancardi, Lisa M. Bogardus, Oil and Natural Gas Pipelines: Wellhead to End User (1995)

The total pipeline network in the United States consists of an estimated 1.835 million miles of pipeline owned and operated by some 2,450 natural gas pipeline operators and 255 liquid pipeline operators.1 There are approximately 90,000 miles of gathering lines, 355,000 miles of gas transmission lines, and 160,000 miles of hazardous liquid pipelines, and 14,000 miles of all pipelines are offshore in the Gulf of Mexico.2 Although pipeline transportation is statistically the safest mode of transporting natural gas and hazardous liquids,3 there is an increasingly vocal public discussion over whether this record can continue and, if not, what the risks are to the public and the environment.4 First, because population growth during the past several decades has encroached on pipelines' rights-of-way, the integrity of these pipelines bear a greater risk of damage from human activity. Second, because of the increasing proximity of the population to pipelines, more people may be exposed to the risks of pipeline accidents.

During nearly three decades of federal regulation, the pipeline safety program received sporadic public and congressional attention, usually only in response to media reports of isolated accidents causing personal injury or death. Not until 1993, however, did the question of how to manage the safety and environmental risks of pipeline transportation receive ser