PHMSA Tightening Spill Notification Rules

Six weeks after the Refugio Oil Spill, the federal agency responsible for pipeline safety announced it is introducing new rules to require pipeline operators to notify the National Response Center (NRC) within one hour of confirming the existence of a spill. Under current rules ​— ​enforced by the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) ​— ​there is no enforceable time limit for notification. In the aftermath of the Refugio spill, Plains All American Pipeline called the NRC at 2:54 p.m., even though county firefighters confirmed oil was gushing into the ocean from a culvert as early as noon. PHMSA is also recommending new rules to require drug and alcohol testing of pipeline company employees whose performance could have contributed to a previous spill.

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