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Pipeline near Wilsonville had automatic shutoff valves added following concerns raised by resident

PMG FILE PHOTO - A petroleum pipeline runs under Wilsonville and other parts of Oregon from Portland to Eugene.

A couple years after the energy infrastructure company Kinder Morgan added automatic shutoff valves to the portion of its Sante Fe Petroleum Pipeline near Wilsonville, the federal agency responsible for regulating pipelines across the United States — the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration — is adding a shutoff valve requirement for all new or replaced pipeline infrastructure.

"Far too many Americans have experienced the consequences of pipeline failures," United States Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg said in a press release March 31. "Today we are taking an important step to protect communities against hazardous pipeline leaks — helping to save the lives, property, and jobs of people in every part of the country while preventing super-polluting methane leaks."

This decision comes a few months after the department discovered 2,700 anomalies along Kinder Morgan's pipelines across the country, including the one that runs from Eugene to Portland. The report stated that the deficiencies could pose a "significant integrity threat, placing the pipelines at heightened risk of failure, threatening harm to people and the environment."

The federal agency's new rules would not apply to the Sante Fe pipeline because it is not new or being replaced, to the chagrin of Wilsonville resident Shawn O'Neil — who initially raised the issue of the need for shutoff valves near Wilsonville. The pipeline in Wilsonville runs under Inza R. Wood Middle School, Wilsonville neighborhoods and close to the Willamette River Water Treatment Plant. Though there are valves in spots near Wilsonville, there may not be in other sections of the pipeline.

"Consequently, given the PHMSA's narrow definition, this would never apply to the 60-year-old Kinder Morgan Pipeline (aka the Santa Fe Petroleum Pipeline) that runs through Wilsonville unless there was ever a reason to replace a two mile stretch of pipeline within a 5-mile continuous stretch during a 24-month period," O'Neil wrote in a recent post on Linkedin. "Essentially, it is our opinion this PHMSA rule definition is code for- 'you do not have to do these safety upgrades until after you have a catastrophic event which takes out a 2 mile stretch of your pipeline.'"

The valves allow pipeline owners to easily shut off a leak as quickly as possible rather than needing someone to manually do so. The rule further requires that operators have written emergency response plans "for timely identification and mitigation of ruptures on their systems, as well as to include procedures for engaging public safety officials (such as 9-1-1 call centers and fire, police, and other first responders)," the press release read.

The release noted that a single pipeline leak could result in the discharging of more than 1,300 metric tons of methane emissions.


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