Press Release of U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer

For Immediate Release:
May 11, 2004  
Contact:
Washington D.C. Office (202) 224-3553

Boxer Questions Suisun Marsh Pipeline Safety Program, Asks Protection From Future Spills  

Washington, D.C.-U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), troubled by Kinder Morgan's delayed response to the diesel spill in Suisun Marsh, today wrote to Kinder Morgan's Products Pipelines Division president asking him to commit his company to assume the full cost of the clean up. Senator Boxer also posed numerous questions to regulatory agencies regarding the cause of the spill and actions that can be taken to assure future pipeline safety to protect the area from future oil spills.

Boxer wrote to the following:

Tom Bannigan, President of Kinder Morgan's Products Pipelines Division

Chris Hoidal, Director of the U.S. Department of Transportation's Federal Office of Pipeline Safety, Research and Special Programs Administration for the Western Region

Glenn Tong, Division Chief for the California Office of the State Fire Marshal's Pipeline Safety Division

Carlton Moore, Interim Administrator of California Department of Fish and Game's Office of Spill Prevention and Response

Senator Boxer's letters are attached.

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May 11, 2004

Thomas A. Bannigan, President
Products Pipelines Division
Kinder Morgan Energy Partners
500 Dallas St., Suite 1000
Houston, TX 77002

Dear President Bannigan:

I am writing to you regarding the recent Kinder Morgan pipeline created spill in the Suisun Marsh.

On the Friday following the pipeline spill, my staff learned from your Northern California Director of Operations, Mr. Gene Braithwaite, that Kinder Morgan Energy Partners waited to alert the appropriate authorities of a possible pipeline problem almost a full day after abnormal pipeline activity was discovered.

My staff also learned from the Department of Fish and Game that had they been notified earlier, they and other appropriate agencies could have expedited clean up and response, which could have minimized the damage resulting from this spill.

Based on the information I have received, it appears that your company personnel did not act responsibly after detecting abnormal pipeline activity. They delayed in notifying agencies and delayed their examination of the pipeline. Your delayed response aggravated an already grave situation. The evaporation of diesel into the atmosphere and the seepage of diesel into the groundwater will have disastrous effects on the sensitive habitat and surrounding areas for a long time to come.

I would like to learn more about your schedule for monitoring and maintaining your pipelines.

What plans do you have for this pipeline's future use? It is my understanding that this pipeline has had previous maintenance problems, as demonstrated with the spill near Elmira in the 1990s.

As you continue operation of this pipeline and begin operation of a newly located pipeline in the near future, I urge you to strengthen your program to monitor and assure safety of these pipelines.

In addition, given your delayed response and the resulting additional damage to the environment, I suggest that you step forward now and assume financial responsibility for clean up costs and damages.

Suisun Marsh is an important migratory path for several listed waterfowl species and other wildlife. The Bay-Delta waterway is a crucial path for migrating fish, and it supplies water for the larger Bay Area community. Those who do harm need to take responsibility for the protection of this important natural resource.

Thank you for your prompt attention to this important matter. I look forward to hearing from you as soon as possible.

Sincerely,

 

Barbara Boxer
United States Senator

 

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May 11, 2004

Chris Hoidal, Director of the Western Region
Federal Office of Pipeline Safety, Research and Special Programs Administration
US Department of Transportation
12600 W. Colfax Ave., Suite A-250
Lakewood, CO 80215

Dear Director Hoidal:

Thank you for sharing with my staff your efforts to improve the operation of Kinder Morgan's Concord-Sacramento pipeline. I understand you have issued a federal corrective action against Kinder Morgan.

As I learn more details about the response and clean up of the diesel spill in Suisun Marsh, I am particularly troubled by Kinder Morgan's delay in responding to the appropriate agencies. Kinder Morgan's apparent lack of responsibility in this incident causes me to have serious concerns about how safe the delicate surrounding environment is from future pipeline problems. I urge you to do all you can to assure that this pipeline is operated properly and that future spills are prevented.

This spill was relatively contained. However, due to the evaporation of diesel into the atmosphere and the seeping of diesel into the groundwater, the impacts of this incident will be experienced for a long time to come.

As is always the case with spills, there will be much to learn from this incident. I would like to know what your agency's schedule is for monitoring and maintenance of these pipelines. I understand the pipeline that ruptured in Suisun Marsh was designed in the 1960s. The pipeline suffered a previous break in the 1990s near Elmira.

How often do you require pipelines be replaced to prevent malfunctioning? When was the last time this pipeline was inspected by your agency? What in your opinion was the cause of this leak? What is your recommendation regarding this pipeline's future use?

As you continue your investigation of this incident, I urge you to ensure that future use of this pipeline is appropriate and reliably safe. I understand there is a plan for this pipeline to be relocated out of marsh area within six months. What will your agency's schedule be for oversight and inspection of the pipeline removal and establishment in a new location?

In addition, as you work with other responsible agencies on this matter, I urge you to apply appropriate and severe penalties on Kinder Morgan for their delayed response time and apparent irresponsibility, which has resulted in irreversible harm to wildlife and our Bay-Delta system. Those who do harm need to take responsibility for the protection of this important natural resource.

Thank you for your attention to this important matter. I look forward to hearing from you as soon as possible.

Sincerely,

 

Barbara Boxer
United States Senator

cc: San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission
United States Coast Guard Marine Safety Office

 

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May 11, 2004

Mr. Glenn Tong, Division Chief
Pipeline Safety Division
Office of the State Fire Marshal
1131 S Street
Sacramento, CA 95814

Dear Division Chief Tong:

As I learn more details about the response and clean up of the diesel spill in Suisun Marsh, I am particularly troubled by Kinder Morgan's delay in responding to the appropriate agencies. Kinder Morgan's apparent lack of responsibility in this incident causes me to have serious concerns about how safe the delicate surrounding environment is from future pipeline problems.

I urge you to do all you can to assure that this pipeline is operated properly and that future spills are prevented.

This spill was relatively contained. However, due to the evaporation of diesel into the atmosphere and the seeping of diesel into the groundwater, the impacts of this incident will be experienced for a long time to come.

As is always the case with spills, there will be much to learn from this incident. I would like to know what your agency's schedule is for monitoring and maintenance of these pipelines. I understand the pipeline that ruptured in Suisun Marsh was designed in the 1960s. The pipeline suffered a previous break in the 1990s near Elmira.

How often do you require pipelines be replaced to prevent malfunctioning? When was the last time this pipeline was inspected by your agency? What in your opinion was the cause of this leak? What is your recommendation regarding this pipeline's future use?

In your investigation of this incident, I urge you to ensure that future use of this pipeline is appropriate and reliably safe. I understand there is a plan for this pipeline to be relocated out of marsh area within six months.

What will your agency's schedule be for oversight and inspection of the pipeline removal and establishment in a new location? What will your agency do to ensure extra safety precautions are in place permanently?

As you work with other responsible agencies on this matter, I urge you to apply appropriate and severe penalties on Kinder Morgan for their delayed response time and apparent irresponsibility, which has resulted in irreversible harm to wildlife and our Bay-Delta system. Those who do harm need to take responsibility for the protection of this important natural resource.

Thank you for your attention to this important matter. I look forward to learning the results of your investigation into this incident as soon as possible.

Sincerely,

 

Barbara Boxer
United States Senator

 

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May 11, 2004

Mr. Carlton Moore, Interim Administrator
Office of Spill Prevention and Response
Department of Fish and Game
1700 K Street
Sacramento, CA 95814

Dear Administrator Moore:

As I learn more details about the response and clean up of the diesel spill in Suisun Marsh, I am particularly troubled by Kinder Morgan's delay in responding to the appropriate agencies. Kinder Morgan's apparent lack of responsibility in this incident causes me to have serious concerns about how safe the delicate surrounding environment is from future pipeline problems.

I urge you to do all you can to assure that this pipeline is operated properly and that future spills are prevented.

This spill was relatively contained. However, due to the evaporation of diesel into the atmosphere and the seeping of diesel into the groundwater, the impacts of this incident will be experienced for a long time to come.

As is always the case with spills, there will be much to learn from this incident. I would like to know what your agency's schedule is for updating and revising a contingency plan for Kinder Morgan's pipeline.

What has your agency done to prevent the possibility of spills on this pipeline and similar pipelines throughout the state? What in your opinion was the cause of this leak? What steps does your agency plan to take to prevent future pipeline spill incidents? What have you found to be the short and long term impacts of this spill on the environment?

In your investigation of this incident, I urge you to ensure that future use of this pipeline is appropriate and reliably safe.

What will your agency's schedule be for oversight and inspection of the pipeline removal and establishment in a new location?

Finally, I urge you to apply appropriate and severe penalties on Kinder Morgan for their delayed response time and apparent irresponsibility, which has resulted in irreversible harm to wildlife and our Bay-Delta system. Those who do harm need to take responsibility for the protection of this important natural resource.

Thank you for your attention to this important matter. I look forward to hearing from you as soon as possible.

Sincerely,

 

Barbara Boxer
United States Senator