Skip to main content

ruptured pipeline
Reduced numbers of federal inspectors
means ruptured pipelines like this one could
become more common.
At a time when more crude oil is being moved through aging pipelines and in outmoded railroad tanker cars, the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration is chopping 40 people off its staff, which many people already view as too small to do its task effectively.

PHMSA is handling the cuts by means of buy-outs, typically used in the private sector to incentivize employees, especially higher-paid employees, to retire early, thus saving on payroll expenses whether or not those who are bought out are replaced.

Elizabeth Douglass at Inside Climate News reports:

... the job cuts come at a time when PHMSA is already under considerable duress. Politicians and the public have been pushing the agency to more rigorously regulate the nation's aging pipeline network as well as the many new pipelines tied to surging domestic oil and natural gas production. A spate of damaging pipeline spills and oil-by-rail accidents is adding to the workload, exposing PHMSA's shortcomings and intensifying scrutiny of the agency.

PHMSA, which is part of the Department of Transportation, regulates the 2.6 million miles of U.S. pipelines that carry hazardous liquids such as crude oil and fuels. [...]

"It seems like a lot of people … [and] an inopportune time," said [Carl Weimer, executive director of the Pipeline Safety Trust and a member of PHMSA's technical committee for pipeline safety standards]. "They have all these Congressional mandates, they have all these requests from [the National Transportation Safety Board] to fix things, there's been a series of incidents that they're trying to investigate, and they're even saying out loud how they don't have enough inspectors and how they would like to do more."

Others have expressed similar concerns. With inspectors so hard to hire because people with the required skills are being grabbed up by the private sector—which pays better—it's mighty strange to see inspectors being laid off. Part of the reason is the federal budget sequester that has led to axing across a wide array of regulatory and other agencies. If everyone takes the available buyouts, the PHMSA's full-time staff will fall to 386. That's 112 jobs below its approved payroll for 2014. The agency is seeking enough budget increase in 2015 to boost the staff to 602. That seems extremely unlikely to be approved. Even if it were, getting up to full staff seems even less likely.

Originally posted to Meteor Blades on Mon Apr 28, 2014 at 01:37 PM PDT.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags


More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site