As mandated in the Pipeline Safety, Regulatory Certainty, and Job Creation Act of 2011, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued a January 2013 report on the ability of transmission pipeline operators to respond to a hazardous liquid or natural gas release from an existing pipeline segment. This statement is based on this report and addresses (1) variables that influence the ability of transmission pipeline operators to respond to incidents and (2) opportunities to improve these operators' responses to incidents. This statement also provides information from two other recent GAO reports on pipeline safety.
Numerous variables--some of which are under operators' control--influence the ability of transmission pipeline operators to respond to incidents. For example, the location of response personnel and the use of manual or automated valves can affect the amount of time it takes for operators to respond to incidents. However, because the advantages and disadvantages of installing an automated valve are closely related to the specifics of the valve's location, it is appropriate that operators decide whether to install automated valves on a case-by-case basis. Several operators GAO spoke with have developed approaches to evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of installing automated valves, such as using spill-modeling software to estimate the potential amount of product released and extent of damage that would occur in the event of an incident.