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Pipeline Safety Reminder


October 15, 2014 by Jim Doherty
Category: Pipeline Safety

Pipeline Safety Reminder

Twenty-eight of Washington’s 39 counties have large-diameter transmission pipelines within their jurisdiction. Over 110 cities and towns in Washington have major transmission pipelines either within their jurisdiction or within one mile of their boundaries. These major pipelines are transporting either natural gas or hazardous liquids (such as crude oil, gasoline, or jet fuel) at high pressure. This post is intended as a reminder about safety issues involved with these pipelines.

Does your planning department always mark the location of major transmission pipelines on maps created for planning and review purposes? Maps and additional information regarding these major pipelines are available through the Washington Utilities and Transmission Commision (WUTC) website. See their Pipeline Safety Program and Pipeline Maps.

Are your emergency responders trained to deal with the consequences of a pipeline rupture? Fortunately, there are resources available to assist you. On November 4th, 5th, and 6th, one-day trainings for emergency responders will be held in Bellevue, Monroe, and Bellingham – see this flyer for additional information.

Has your jurisdiction adopted a “consultation zone” requirement or other recommended practices for development that occurs near major transmission pipelines? Planners and elected officials are encouraged to review the information MRSC has collected on our Transmission Pipeline Regulation webpage. Also, the Pipeline Safety Trust, located in Bellingham, has recently published a “Local Government Guide to Pipelines.”

It has been just over 15 years since the tragic pipeline explosion in Bellingham that killed two boys and one young man, and caused major environmental damage to Whatcom Creek. Fortunately, we haven’t had a major pipeline tragedy in the State of Washington since then – but vigilance is needed and precautions must always be taken. The consequences of pipeline ruptures in urban areas can be catastrophic; San Bruno, California experienced a major rupture in 2010.

Whenever city, county, or special district crews dig into the ground, with either shovels or large equipment, the 811 “call before you dig” procedures must be followed – see chapter 19.122 RCW for the details. Also, does your permit counter inform customers of the “call before you dig” requirements? Does your jurisdiction require proof of contact with the 811 call center before issuing a permit that involves excavation?

If you have questions regarding these issues, don’t hesitate to contact MRSC. We can either assist you or direct you to the agency that can provide the information that you need. Additional resources and information on pipeline safety and development near pipelines can be found on the MRSC webpages linked above.

Photo courtesy of Consumers Energy.


MRSC is a private nonprofit organization serving local governments in Washington State. Eligible government agencies in Washington State may use our free, one-on-one Ask MRSC service to get answers to legal, policy, or financial questions.

About Jim Doherty

Jim has over 24 years of experience researching and responding to varied legal questions at MRSC. He is the lead attorney consultant and has special expertise in transmission pipeline planning issues, as well as the issues surrounding medical and recreational marijuana.

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