U.S. Sens. Barbara Boxer, D-CA, Dianne Feinstein, D-CA, and Edward J. Markey, D-MA, on May 28 sent a letter to the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration calling for more information about the rupture of a pipeline
The senators wrote, “Following one of the most devastating oil spills in California history, we need answers about why this happened, why the response was insufficient and what can be done to prevent another tragic spill like this from happening in the future.”
The letter raises questions about how whether Plains Pipeline acted quickly enough to detect the spill and alert authorities. According to the corrective action order issued by PHMSA, Plains Pipeline employees detected anomalies in Line 901 at 11:30 a.m. PST, discovered the failure at 1:30 p.m. PST and reported the incident to the National Response Center at 2:56 p.m. PST.
The senators wrote, “Based on this timeline, we are concerned that Plains Pipeline may not have detected this spill or reported it to federal officials as quickly as possible, and that these delays could have exacerbated the extent of the damage to the environment.”
The lawmakers also expressed concern about the lack of an automatic shut-off valve on the pipeline, which could have potentially reduced the amount of oil spilled in the rupture. In the letter, the senators asked PHMSA to respond on whether it can require Plains Pipeline to install automatic shut-off valves for Line 901 as the pipeline is being repaired. They also asked the agency to provide additional information about its prior inspections of the pipeline and whether other inspections have raised concerns about similar pipelines in the region.
The senators also called on the agency to provide additional information about Plains Pipeline’s spill response plan and about whether sufficient effort was made to train and prepare local land owners, land management agencies and other stakeholders in the event of a spill in this area.