NM Pipe Safety Bill Sails through House
Intrastate pipeline safety legislation, which would give New Mexico
authorities more oversight over lines running through the state, received
unanimous support from the state's House last week. The bill comes six
months after El Paso Natural Gas Co.'s South Mainline near Carlsbad exploded
killing 12 people from an extended family who were camping on the Pecos
River (see NGI, Sept. 4, 2000).
HB 279, sponsored by State Rep. John A. Heaton (D), amends the New Mexico
Pipeline Safety Act and the current statutes related to public lands. The
bill would add "hazardous liquid pipelines" in the law's regulatory
scheme and would require compliance with federal law concerning internal
and external surveillance of pipeline integrity. It also would require
companies to install emergency flow restricting devices. New Mexico's Public
Regulation Commission (PRC) rules also would have to "substantially
conform" to federal pipeline safety rules under the legislation.
Following the El Paso explosion, an inspection by the National Transportation
Safety Board determined that the South Mainline had not been properly inspected
for almost 48 years. It also found extensive corrosion within the pipe.
Both the federal government and states regulate pipeline safety, however,
the federal government regulates interstate transportation while a state
may regulate intrastate transportation if it is certified by the U.S. Department
of Transportation. Currently, neither federal nor New Mexico laws specifically
require internal and external surveillance of pipeline integrity nor do
they require installing emergency flow restricting devices.
Heaton's bill would not cover existing pipelines unless the New Mexico
PRC, after investigation and hearing, determined that a specific pipeline
was hazardous to life or property.
Carolyn Davis, Houston
©Copyright 2001 Intelligence Press, Inc. All rights reserved.
The preceding news report may not be republished or redistributed in whole
or in part without prior written consent of Intelligence Press, Inc.