An explosive new study of the US Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) finds that the agency has no clear path to addressing the dangers posed by oil spills in the country.
In fact, the study concludes that PHMSA has been a prime mover in exacerbating the risks posed by spills, with a “systemic failure” to take a stand against pipeline leaks.
The report, written by two experts and published on Tuesday by the journal Science Advances, was commissioned by the environmental advocacy group 350.org.
“Pipelines are a vital lifeline for communities in the U.S., and the PHMDA has not adequately addressed the growing risk of pipeline leaks,” said Rachel O’Brien, an environmental health expert and senior fellow at 350.
“The study demonstrates that pipeline leaks are a real and urgent public health problem, and we must act now.”
The study comes as the U, as well as a handful of other countries, have enacted new measures aimed at tackling the issue.
The US has been one of the world’s top polluters, with the number of oil spills estimated to have reached 1.7 million in 2015.
However, in the past few years, the number has declined significantly, falling by around 50 percent since the end of the oil boom.
In 2016, the US accounted for less than 3 percent of the total number of spills in world history, according to data from the Pipeline and Transportation Safety Administration.
In addition, the pipeline industry has seen a surge in oil prices since the early 2000s, which has led to an influx of oil companies seeking new sources of revenue.
The study finds that although there has been an overall increase in oil industry activity, the industry has not yet managed to address the vast majority of pipeline safety concerns.
PHMSC’s Office of Pipeline Safety has been slow to develop clear and comprehensive pipeline safety protocols, and its approach has been to take the blame for pipeline spills rather than developing a strategy to prevent them.
The agency has not required that pipelines be retrofitted to include systems that could prevent pipeline leaks, instead opting instead to focus on remediation.
“It is unfortunate that we continue to see a lack of focus on the problem of pipeline spills in our system,” said Scott Sivak, a senior staff attorney at 350 and a former adviser to the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC).
“It would be much more effective to develop a new pipeline safety framework that addresses the real threats to communities and to the environment.”
Sivaros noted that pipelines in particular have a history of spills that have impacted the lives of millions of people.
In the 1960s, for instance, a tanker carrying crude oil spilled on the Mississippi River, killing 13 people.
During the 1970s, an oil train carrying crude from Texas to Canada derailed near the Great Lakes.
In 2000, a train carrying oil spilled in the Gulf of Mexico, killing 12 people.
The pipeline leak caused widespread damage to the communities downstream.
“These accidents have a direct impact on communities downstream,” Sivarsaid.
“They cause massive environmental damage and have caused a tremendous amount of loss of life.”
The oil train incident was the result of a faulty design, which resulted in the pipeline colliding with a pipe that had previously been welded onto the existing track.
The rupture caused an explosion that sent thousands of gallons of crude oil spilling into the river, killing nine people.
Another spill of that magnitude occurred in 2010, causing extensive damage to homes and businesses along the pipeline’s route.
The spill resulted in an estimated $4.8 billion in property damage.
PHMSSA has also failed to develop adequate training and protocols to prevent pipeline spills, and has been unwilling to implement mandatory spill response protocols.
“PHMSC has failed to protect communities from pipeline spills,” said Sarah Koster, executive director of the National Pipeline Safety Task Force, a group of experts and former government officials that helped create the National Environmental Policy Act.
“We need to do more to protect people from oil spills.
We need to implement spill response procedures and develop protocols to minimize the risk to people and property downstream.”
While there are no specific plans to implement new policies, Koster said the study showed that “there are some ways to help prevent oil spills.”
“One way to do this is to take some responsibility for the spills,” she said.
“One of the most important things is to have a system in place to address spills.
That is something that is already in place and that we have to do better.”
The report comes as oil companies are ramping up the production of oil and gas in response to the oil downturn, with companies pumping as much as 40 billion barrels of oil per day in 2016.
The surge in drilling is also prompting the expansion of new pipelines.
In 2018, ExxonMobil increased the number and depth of its oil and natural gas pipelines from just six to eight.
In 2019, Chevron announced it was