New fuel pipeline guidelines floated following 2018 blasts in Massachusetts


The explosions and fires in Lawrence, Andover and North Andover in September 2018 left a young person useless, about two dozen injured and destroyed or broken greater than 130 properties.

Firefighters battle a house fire on Herrick Road in North Andover, Mass.
Firefighters battle a home hearth on Herrick Street, Sept. 13, 2018, in North Andover, Mass., considered one of a number of emergency crews responding to a collection of fuel explosions and fires triggered by an issue with a fuel line that feeds properties in a number of communities north of Boston. AP Photograph/Mary Schwalm, File

BOSTON (AP) — Federal regulators are proposing a collection of guidelines adjustments geared toward toughening security necessities for tens of millions of miles of fuel distribution pipelines nationwide following a string of fuel explosions in Massachusetts in 2018.

These proposed adjustments are designed to enhance security and ease threat by way of the advance of emergency response plans, integrity administration plans, operation manuals and different steps, based on the U.S. Division of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Supplies Security Administration.

This proposal was prompted by the collection of blasts that ripped although components of the Merrimack Valley area of Massachusetts.

The explosions and fires in Lawrence, Andover and North Andover in September 2018 left a young person useless, about two dozen injured and destroyed or broken greater than 130 properties. Hundreds of residents and companies have been additionally left with out pure fuel service for warmth and sizzling water for months in some circumstances.

Leonel Rondon, of Lawrence, died after the chimney of an exploding home crashed onto his automotive and crushed him. The 18-year-old Rondon had acquired his driver’s license simply hours earlier. Rondon’s household later reached a settlement with the utility concerned within the catastrophe.

The explosions have been brought on by overpressurized pipelines operated by Columbia Fuel of Massachusetts, based on a federal investigation. The utility agreed to pay the state $56 million in 2020 along with a $53 million federal wonderful and a $143 million lawsuit settlement.

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg mentioned tens of millions of miles of fuel distribution pipelines ship vitality to tens of tens of millions of People, heating properties and powering companies.

“Because the tragic loss of life of Leonel Rondon in 2018 reminded us, extra have to be finished to make sure the protection of these pipelines,” Buttigieg mentioned in an announcement Thursday.

The proposal requires improved building procedures to attenuate the danger of overpressurized pipelines and up to date administration applications to organize for over-pressurization incidents.

The adjustments require new regulator stations to be designed with secondary strain reduction valves and distant fuel monitoring to organize fuel distribution techniques to keep away from overpressurization and to restrict harm throughout these incidents.

Lastly, the plan requires strengthening response plans for fuel pipeline emergencies, together with necessities for operators to contact native emergency responders and hold prospects and the affected public knowledgeable of what to do within the occasion of an emergency.

The discover of the proposed guidelines adjustments can be revealed within the federal register, kicking off a public remark interval. The company will overview the feedback earlier than issuing last guidelines.

In 2019, the Nationwide Transportation Security Board, which investigates main pipeline accidents, really useful more durable nationwide necessities for pure fuel techniques, together with mandating all pure fuel infrastructure tasks to be reviewed and accepted by a licensed skilled engineer.

Nineteen states had such a requirement on the time, however most had particularly exempted the pure fuel business from such overview necessities.

The board had additionally really useful pure fuel utilities be required to put in extra safeguards on low strain techniques.

Regulators say the brand new proposal builds on different nationwide and worldwide actions pushed by Congress and the Biden administration to cut back methane emissions — a greenhouse fuel with greater than 25 instances the worldwide warming potential of carbon dioxide.

Earlier this yr, the primary $196 million from the almost $1 billion Pure Fuel Distribution Infrastructure Security and Modernization grant program have been introduced.