Since the passage of the Patriot Act in 2011, most information about pipelines has been very difficult to obtain in an effort to prevent releasing even the most basic information could aid in terrorist activities. This has resulted in tension between the public advocates and the regulators for oil pipelines, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), because transparency and disclosure surrounding pipeline safety issues is almost nonexistent.
Two stark numbers illustrate the challenge the administration faces in ensuring pipeline safety while pressing ahead with new pipeline projects: 135 federal inspectors oversee 2.6 million miles of pipeline, which means each inspector is responsible for almost enough pipe to circle the Earth.
Enbridge is not required by federal or Michigan regulators to communicate safety information with the public, including people living with these pipelines running through their personal property. It is extremely difficult to find out basic information such as where pipelines run, when they were last inspected, what they transport, if there are other pipelines in the same right-of-way, or even what emergency response plans contain. Without reasonable access to this information the public is largely left out of pipeline safety discussion. Increasing the transparency of information that can protect public and environmental safety is an important issue needing more scrutiny.
This story highlights how federal pipeline regulators at PHMSA are failing: Pipeline Safety Chief Says His Regulatory Process Is 'Kind of Dying'