Mayor sends open letter to Al Gore

Letter to the Editor.

  • Friday, October 3, 2008 4:28am
  • Opinion

These are excerpts from an open letter to Vice President Gore:

Dear Vice President Gore:

Thank you for coming to Washington on the anniversary of the

terrible events that killed three young people, Stephen Tsiorvas,

Liam Woods and Wade King, in the June 10, 1999, Olympic pipeline explosion

in Bellingham, Wash. As Mayor of the city of North Bend, it could very

well have been a disaster facing us, since Olympic has also proposed building

a petroleum pipeline through our community. We grieve with the parents

and know the families miss them as well.

In fighting Olympic’s proposed pipeline through our community

it became apparent that the current system is not working. Statistics from

the Office of Pipeline Safety (OPS) demonstrate that our nation’s

pipeline safety laws are completely inadequate. Since 1986 pipeline accidents

have numbered more than 5,700, killed more than 325 people, injured

over 1,500 people, and leaked more than six million gallons of fuel

annually. In addition, it is shocking that OPS has collected only 19 percent of the

modest $1.77 million in civil penalties that it has proposed against pipeline

operators since Jan. 1, 1995. The recent fine on Olympic of $3.05 million

is modest compared to their reported earnings of over a billion dollars

since the pipeline rupture last year.

We are hoping to get legislation on the floor and passed this year

while there is still a momentum in our favor. In order to get the pipeline

safety bill passed with strong enough language to effect real change in

policy and procedure, we need to gather bipartisan support from both sides

of Congress. However, the legislation that the Administration has

proposed for the Pipeline Safety Act reauthorization is too weak and too limited.

The following must be incorporated into any bill this year, or

the deaths of three young people will have fallen on ears closed up by the oil


• Ensure that pipeline ruptures which create safety and

environmental impacts receive swift and substantial penalties, and write effective

citizen enforcement provisions into the law;

• Require development of federal standards for oil pipelines that are

now lacking, and improve the corrosion prevention standards since

corrosion is the biggest single cause of oil pipeline releases;

• Enhance the community right-to-know provisions so oil

pipeline companies provide accountability directly to the public for certain

aspects of their operations;

• Provide the funds and authority for establishment of regional

advisory councils, modeled after the post-Exxon Valdez councils established

in Alaska, to enable public and local government representatives to

provide oversight and make substantive recommendations to the pipeline

industry and regulators on their activities;

• Include whistle blower protection provisions for pipeline

employees; and

• Strengthen the ability of states to inspect and regulate interstate

pipeline operations.

This is the difference between real pipeline safety reform and a

Band-Aid. Please, Mr. Vice President, do not give us Band-Aids.


Mayor North Bend, Board Member of Cascade Columbia Alliance,

a statewide coalition working to improve pipeline


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