The senator has also expressed concerns about federal oversight of the pipeline safety rules and the state’s reliance on two pipelines owned by single company for most of its gasoline.
McCain, who has been absent from the public debate over the 30 July rupture of Kinder Morgan Energy Partners’ petrol pipeline near Tucson, was in Phoenix to conduct a special US Senate hearing on pipeline safety and impact of the accident. He chairs the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, and was the co-author of legislation that significantly beefed up federal pipeline safety laws.
While no injuries resulted from the pipeline break, the subsequent 17-day shutdown of the one of two pipelines that bring fuel to the Phoenix Valley produced fuel shortages and prices that in places rose to over $4 per gallon. Since the accident, a history of pipeline corrosion problems and safety concerns has surfaced, along with alleged details of lack of oversight by the Office of Pipeline Safety, the US federal agency charged with overseeing some 2.2 million miles of interstate pipelines throughout the country. “The questions that have arisen from this incident suggest delayed, lax, or worse, non-existent oversight by the OPS and a company that reacts to safety problems after they occur instead of taking actions to prevent them,” McCain is reported to have said.
Witnesses suggested that stricter oversight by federal regulators is needed and that more cooperation is needed between the federal government and the Corporation Commission, which has a contract to inspect the lines. They also said that pipeline locations need to be more effectively disclosed to homeowners and businesses, and that construction should be restricted around existing lines. And the bottom line, several said, was that Arizona needs to develop back-up fuel supplies, either by developing a refinery in the state, or by building additional pipelines to bring in fuel.
Pipeline operator Kinder Morgan Products Pipelines said it believed that its safety record in Arizona indicates that its lines are properly maintained. In the five years since the company bought the pipeline, the 30 July break was the only spill not caused by a third party, such as a contractor.