California’s U.S. Senators joined with other lawmakers in demanding answers Friday from a pipeline company connected to the state’s worst oil spill in a quarter-century.
Senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein, along with Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass. – a leader on environmental issues who formerly was the House Natural Resources Committee’s top Democrat – and Rep. Lois Capps, D-Santa Barbara, wrote Friday to Plains All American Pipeline Chairman and CEO Greg Armstrong about last month’s spill of more than 100,000 gallons of crude oil near Refugio State Beach near Santa Barbara.
News outlets have reported Plains has one of the worst safety records of any pipeline company, with 175 safety and maintenance violations since 2006 that have resulted in more than 16,000 barrels of oil spilled and more than $23 million worth of property damage.
The lawmakers called for immediate answers after federal regulators found this week that the company’s pipeline was heavily corroded. Although a May 5 inspection report ordered by Plains Pipeline showed corrosion metal loss of 45 percent in the area of the rupture, third party investigators found 82 percent of the pipe’s thickness actually had worn away.
“We are deeply concerned about the recent findings from the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) that revealed that the pipeline that ruptured showed signs of extensive corrosion,” the lawmakers wrote. “We are also concerned about inconsistencies in the inspection reports about this pipeline, which raise questions about the safety of other pipelines that you operate.”
New reports also indicate that Plains Pipeline initially stopped pumping after the anomalies were first detected, but then resumed pumping about 20 minutes later. “Any delay in detecting or reporting this spill or shutting down the pipeline could have exacerbated the extent of the damage to the environment,” they wrote.
They want answers by the close of business on June 19.
“Plains has received the letter from Senators Boxer, Feinstein and Markey and Congresswoman Capps and will respond timely,” company spokesman Brad Leon said later Friday. “Plains shares the desire to diligently examine the recent incident to help inform regulators and the industry regarding the cause of the incident. Plains is cooperating with the investigation led by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration and looks forward to being a fully engaged partner in that process.”
Read the full letter, after the jump…