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It's Time To Plug the Loopholes In Pipeline Regulation 163

Posted by timothy
from the slippery-laws dept.
Hugh Pickens DOT Com (2995471) writes "Congresswoman Janice Hahn writes in the Daily Breeze that thousands of gallons of crude oil spilled onto a residential street in Wilmington, California when an idle pipeline burst in a residential neighborhood, wreaking havoc on the lives of families who live in the community. "With a noxious smell and the sounds of jackhammers engulfing the community, the residential neighborhood turned into a toxic waste site in less than an hour," says Hahn. "The smell was nauseating and unbearable. Extensive drilling on the street is causing damage to driveways and even cracking tile flooring inside homes. Residents have seen their lawns die within a two-week span and they worry that the soil may be toxic. Several residents have suffered from eye irritation, nausea, headaches and dizziness due to the foul oil odor, including an elderly woman who has lived in Wilmington for more than 20 years." (More, below.)
"The 10-inch pipeline is owned by Phillips 66, who initially said it was almost positive that the company was not to blame for the leak and declined to elaborate on why the unused 10-inch pipeline was filled with crude oil. Hahn says current loopholes in pipeline regulation are inexcusable and has called for a congressional hearing to examine regulations for pipeline safety and plans to introduce legislation that will specifically require that all abandoned or idle pipelines are routinely inspected. "The Wilmington community deserves answers and support from Phillips 66 and handing out gift cards and breakfast burritos to the residents is not in any way a substitute for transparency and accountability to the community," concludes Hahn. "This oil spill could have been prevented. With prudent oversight, we can make sure that the industries our communities rely on are also good neighbors and ensure that an incident like this never happens again.""
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It's Time To Plug the Loopholes In Pipeline Regulation

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  • Send them pizza (Score:5, Informative)

    by ATMAvatar (648864) on Sunday April 06, 2014 @12:54PM (#46677155) Journal
    After all, everyone knows that free pizza [newsweek.com] makes everything better after an event like this.
  • Re:Money money money (Score:3, Informative)

    by pla (258480) on Sunday April 06, 2014 @01:30PM (#46677337) Journal
    For the same reason we don't put firewalls after 100 feet of network cabling. It's expensive and likely to _create_ more failures than it prevents.

    Great analogy, because just like water or crude, bits on the wire leak out when a failure occurs and make a mess of everything around them. Man, I'll never forget the sticky mess I found myself in when a backhoe came through the top wall of the server room and took out a densely packed cabling tray. Bits up to my waist within minutes, just awful. ;)

    Ironically, though, your answer does more to promote the idea than discredit it - Because, we do put routers between network segments and firewalls at each end-point, and no more fine-grained points of (virtual) compromise really exist.

    Backhoes notwithstanding.
  • Re:No problem! (Score:5, Informative)

    by mspohr (589790) on Sunday April 06, 2014 @02:42PM (#46677795)

    There was plenty of generating capacity.
    The crisis was created by market manipulation by Enron and others. They were able to manipulate the market because it was DE-regulated.
    Now that we have better regulations in place, the market is working better.
    From Wikipedia:
    California had an installed generating capacity of 45GW. At the time of the blackouts, demand was 28GW. A demand supply gap was created by energy companies, mainly Enron, to create an artificial shortage. Energy traders took power plants offline for maintenance in days of peak demand to increase the price.[9][10] Traders were thus able to sell power at premium prices, sometimes up to a factor of 20 times its normal value. Because the state government had a cap on retail electricity charges, this market manipulation squeezed the industry's revenue margins, causing the bankruptcy of Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) and near bankruptcy of Southern California Edison in early 2001.[11]
    The financial crisis was possible because of partial deregulation legislation instituted in 1996 by the California Legislature (AB 1890) and Governor Pete Wilson. Enron took advantage of this deregulation and was involved in economic withholding and inflated price bidding in California's spot markets.[12]
    The crisis cost between $40 to $45 billion.[13]

  • Re:Money money money (Score:5, Informative)

    by houstonbofh (602064) on Sunday April 06, 2014 @02:56PM (#46677945)

    Why don't pipelines like that have passive shutoff valves every hundred feet or so, such that if the pipeline suddenly looses pressure, the valve closes and no more oil can escape than already made it into that section?

    Because several miles of crude oil flowing at 10 miles an hour has a lot of mass. Suddenly closing a valve would be like suddenly popping up a wall in front of a train. The oil would not just stop, but find a catastrophic and explosive new path. No, not money. Physics.

    As to the money thing... Why is that considered so unimportant? More people die of a lack of money than any other thing on earth... People who say "It's only money" must have never gone to sleep (sleep, not bed as homeless don't have beds) hungry.

  • Re:No problem! (Score:5, Informative)

    by Geoffrey.landis (926948) on Sunday April 06, 2014 @03:17PM (#46678119) Homepage

    The system is running fine, now that the hangover from regulation has cleared.

    The system is running fine, now that Enron is out of business and the top con men put in jail or (in the case of Lay) dead. (Not for defrauding the people of California-- that's not a crime-- but for defrauding their own company as well, resulting in crash of value of the stock.

  • by Khashishi (775369) on Sunday April 06, 2014 @04:14PM (#46678503) Journal

    TFA says 70 barrels, not gallons. A barrel is 31.5 gallons.

Whenever a system becomes completely defined, some damn fool discovers something which either abolishes the system or expands it beyond recognition.

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