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Why The U.S. Government Might Take Over Oklahoma’s Pipeline Safety Program

Three pipelines already cross the Kelso family farm.
Joe Wertz
StateImpact Oklahoma

Oklahoma is one of few states with no dedicated agency charged with regulating the safety of oil and gas pipelines, a gap the U.S. Department of Transportation started scrutinizing in the wake of pipeline explosions across the country.

If the state doesn’t toughen its pipeline safety rules, the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration could take control of the program and “levy stiffer penalties than what the state has,” The Journal Record‘s Sarah Terry-Cobo reports. But enacting stricter “pipeline damage prevention” rules could be a challenge for county offices:

One critical issue is how to eliminate an exception for excavators working for public agencies. On Wednesday, the OCC held a public meeting seeking comments on the state’s pipeline damage prevention statutes.

The commission’s inquiry was fueled by the findings of a task force appointed in May 2013 by Gov. Mary Fallin, Terry-Cobo reports:

Most companies performing excavation work are required to use the state’s One Call service to determine where pipelines and underground cables are buried prior to digging. But the state’s statutes create an exception for public agencies, such as a county office or municipality.

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Joe was a founding reporter for StateImpact Oklahoma (2011-2019) covering the intersection of economic policy, energy and environment, and the residents of the state. He previously served as Managing Editor of Urban Tulsa Weekly, as the Arts & Entertainment Editor at Oklahoma Gazette and worked as a Staff Writer for The Oklahoman. Joe was a weekly arts and entertainment correspondent for KGOU from 2007-2010. He grew up in Bartlesville, Okla. and studied journalism at the University of Central Oklahoma.
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