U.S. to Issue Safety Rule on Nat Gas Pipelines

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"A 2.5M-mile pipeline network crisscrosses the U.S., carrying everything from crude oil to natural gas to refined products."

The U.S. government will issue new natural gas pipeline safety rules this summer in hopes of reducing fatal accidents, which have more than doubled since 2008, a regulator said on Monday.

The death toll from pipeline safety accidents rose from 9 in 2008 to 13 in 2009 and reached 22 last year, said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.

To shore up safety, LaHood said, the U.S. Transportation Department, which oversees pipeline safety, will issue a rule in August requiring all natural gas pipeline operators to evaluate the risks of accidents on their systems from explosions, corrosion, leaks and other problems and take immediate steps to mitigate them.

"This is not acceptable," LaHood said of the rising death toll as the department kicked off a day-long summit on pipeline safety.

A PG&E natural gas line exploded in a San Francisco suburb last September, killing eight people and destroying 37 homes.

In February, a natural gas explosion on a pipeline operated by UGI Utilities killed five people in Allentown, Pennsylvania. Last year, an oil pipeline leak in the Midwest spilled thousands of barrels of crude.

A 2.5-million-mile network of pipelines crisscrosses the United States, carrying everything from crude oil to natural gas to refined products like gasoline and jet fuel.

Christopher Helms, CEO of NiSource Gas Transmission and Storage and head of the Interstate Natural Gas Association of America's pipeline safety task force, said the industry is already working to mitigate risks on older pipelines, such as to how establish and verify safe pressure levels.

Legislation was introduced in the U.S. Senate in February that includes many of the pipeline safety improvements the administration is seeking.

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