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June 04, 2015

California Proposes New Pipeline Safety and Response Regulations

In response to the recent Plains All American Pipeline spill in which over 100,000 gallons of crude oil was released underground, California legislators have introduced three bills to address spill response, pipeline inspections, and safety devices.

The Rapid Oil Spill Response Act would allow volunteer cleanup crews to be paid as contractors, require oil skimmers to placed along the coastline at all times, and prohibit the use of dispersants until EPA issues rules on dispersant safety.

The Pipelines Inspection Bill would mandate annual pipeline inspections, with the state fire marshal responsible for inspecting all federally regulated pipelines.

The Shut-Off Technology Bill would require automatic shut-offs for pipelines located in environmentally sensitive areas.

The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (“PHMSA”) issued a Corrective Action Order (“CAO”) on May 22, 2015 to Plains Pipeline, ordering the company to suspend operations and make safety improvements.  The CAO was amended on June 3, 2015 to require additional corrective actions.  While the cause of the failure has not been determined, early findings point to external corrosion of the pipeline for the segment that failed.

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