The Big Lies

Columbia Gas Transmission is required to remove trees and trim to the edge of the pipeline easement.

DOT requires aerial inspection of natural gas pipelines.

Columbia Gas has the right to do whatever it wants on the easement and is exempt from local regulation.

Sept/Oct 2006
Herndon, VA

We were repeatedly told that the Department of Transportation required Columbia Gas Transmission to clear their easement to facilitate aerial survey of their pipeline. The rational given was that a fly over of the pipeline 2 or 3 times a month would allow them to find errant contractors digging near the pipeline. This would put an observer over a section of pipeline only a minute or so a month. When questioned how effective this would be, the response was we have the right to do this. Local officials agreed, but were subsequently horrified by the manner in which they performed this task.

In reply to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request from Don Andrews in Ohio we have the following excerpts.

May 25, 2006
U.S. Department
of Transportation

Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration

(With regards to removal of trees)

"There are no existing applicable Federal pipeline safety statutes concerning the right to remove trees for large equipment in order to gain access for normal maintenance and emergency response. How operators meet pipeline safety maintenance and emergency response requirements is their responsibility to develop and implement. If there are any other Federal statues regarding pipeline right-of-way issues, they are outside of PHMSA's knowledge or oversight responsibilities."

"No provisions in the pipeline safety statutes give any operator the right to cut down trees within any alleged right-of-way."

(With regards to aerial inspection)

"No pipeline safety statutes mandate an operator to observe conditions on the right-of-way by aerial inspection or any other specific method of patrolling. The choice of method for patrolling a pipeline right-of-way is solely at the discretion of the operator."

"No pipeline safety statutes require removal of trees to make patrolling or inspection easier or to minimize the possibility of damage by tree roots."

"There are no pipeline safety provisions regarding right-of-way encroachments, including structures or landscaping."

(With regard to Columbia's rights)

"As we have noted in similar questions in the past, the authority for an operator to remove trees is subject to private agreements with landowners and any local land control. There are no Federal pipeline safety regulations authorizing such activities."

"No amendments of new pipeline safety statutes exist in response to the September 11, 2001 events. This includes potential security or terrorist threats. An operator is required to determine any threats to a pipeline and protect the pipeline from any damage from identified threats."

(The original document)
Pipeline letter Ohio page 1
Pipeline letter Ohio page 2