Pipeline owner must give town emergency equipment | SierraSun.com

Pipeline owner must give town emergency equipment

David Bunker
Sierra Sun

The company that owns a pipeline that leaked last month on Donner Summit has agreed to buy the Town of Truckee emergency response equipment as part of a settlement over violations that occurred last year at its fuel tank facility in Sparks.

Kinder Morgan will also pay a $26,630 fine to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency because an unannounced, routine emergency drill last July showed the company was unprepared to respond to a fuel spill on the Truckee River, according to the U.S. EPA.

“We found that they had not been (doing any drills) or they had no evidence that they had been,” said Andrew Helminger, an attorney for the EPA.

Last December, the EPA cited the company for missing at least 10 emergency drills over the last five years. Drills are required to be performed and recorded four times a year.

In settling the violations, Kinder Morgan and the EPA came to an agreement that will fill a obvious need ” emergency equipment available to respond to emergencies on the Truckee River above Reno.

“(Kinder Morgan) had seen that one of the pieces missing in the puzzle was equipment in the reach between Tahoe City and Verdi,” Helminger said.

The pipeline leak that was reported April 1 on Donner Summit confirms the need for emergency equipment to be stationed in the area, he said.

“It just turns out to support the reason why we wanted Kinder Morgan to buy this equipment,” Helminger said.

The details of how much equipment will be donated, and who will receive the equipment are still being worked out, according to the EPA.

Truckee Town Manager Steve Wright said last week he had not been contacted about the donation of equipment.

“The agreement was just reached,” said Lisa Fasano, spokeswoman for the EPA.

A Kinder Morgan subsidiary pled guilty Tuesday over a pipeline rupture in 2004 that spilled approximately 103,000 gallons of diesel fuel into California’s largest wetland.

Santa Fe Pacific Pipeline was charged with failing to promptly report the spill and discharging fuel to the marsh.

A statewide investigation by the California Attorney General’s Office also turned up several other cases where the pipeline operator failed to immediately report leaks.

Santa Fe waited 18 hours to report the Suisun Marsh spill, according to California Attorney General Bill Lockyer’s office.

The $5 million will fund investigation and prosecution of environmental crimes, help restore the wetlands and reimburse state and local agencies for cleanup costs.

In addition, Santa Fe will be on probation for three years and will strengthen inspection and detection of leaks, the attorney general’s office reported.

“The pipeline operator’s conduct in the Suisun Marsh case warranted prosecution, and Kinder Morgan repeatedly and unlawfully failed to report spills or breaches in their pipelines,” said Attorney General Lockyer in a written news release. “We cannot wait for disaster to strike.”

Although the Kinder Morgan affiliate pleaded guilty, the company announced that they believed no additional environmental damage was caused by the way they handled the fuel leak.