In March, The Charleston Gazette (http://bit.ly/W58PFx ) reported, the U.S. Government Accountability Office warned that many gathering lines escape federal scrutiny and noted a ‘‘long-term pattern of understaffing’’ for pipeline safety at the U.S. Department of Transportation.
Remote locations contribute to the lack of scrutiny, the report said. In some cases, only about 10 percent of the lines are actually regulated.
From 2007 through 2011, pipeline accidents nationwide killed 21 workers and 47 other people, resulting in nearly $2.6 billion in property damage, according to PHMSA.
‘‘I would say they’re very rare,’’ Oleksa said. ‘‘On the other hand, they are spectacular and the public has a fear of natural gas. So when something happens, it becomes big news and everybody is aware of it.’’
In 2010 and 2011, a total of 13 people died when gas lines exploded in San Bruno, Calif., and Allentown, Pa.
Last month, more than 40 buildings, including a strip club and a day care center, were damaged in a natural gas explosion in western Massachusetts that injured 18 people, while two people were killed and several homes were destroyed in an explosion in Indianapolis that is being investigated as a homicide.
Pipeline operators are required to submit incident reports within 30 days of an occurrence.
‘‘While many stakeholders agree that federal pipeline safety programs have been on the right track,’’ the Congressional Research Service said earlier this year, ‘‘the spate of recent pipeline incidents suggests there continues to be significant room for improvement.’’
Smith reported from Morgantown, W.Va.