Can federal regulators keep up with the pipeline boom?

Written by Marie Cusick/StateImpact Pennsylvania | Mar 15, 2016 3:20 AM

Photo by Lindsay Lazarski/WHYY

(Lebanon) -- As Pennsylvania's natural gas pipeline building boom continues to grow, so does concern among people who live near the lines.

Some are skeptical that federal regulators can keep up.

Groups opposed to the pipelines hosted a public forum in Lebanon County Monday night.

It's an area where two new major lines are proposed to carry gas and natural gas liquids across the state.

Eric Friedman drove in from his home near Philadelphia, which is also along the route of a liquids pipeline and was one of about 40 people at the gathering.

He's concerned the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Material Safety Administration (known as PHMSA) is under-staffed.

"My understanding of the way PHMSA does their business is they rely almost completely on the operators to self-report data on the number of incidents and about failure investigations and about the damage about the leaks caused by hazardous liquids," he says.

A PHMSA spokeswoman at the forum says the agency does perform its own inspections and audits, but does not verify every incident report it receives from pipeline companies.

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