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The Pipeline & Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) has long recognized dangers facing the public as a result of cast and wrought iron pipelines. Many of these pipelines are over 60 years old and as a result of environmental factors they are prone to leak. Everyone recognizes that a leaking gas line poses a substantial danger to people and property. PHMSA statistics reveal the disproportional rate at which cast iron pipes leak. 11 percent of the incidents occurring on gas distribution mains involved cast iron mains. However, only 2.7 percent of distribution mains are cast iron. In proportion to overall cast iron main mileage, the frequency of incidents on mains made of cast iron is more than four times that of mains made of other materials. Many of these old cast iron pipelines are located in densely populated areas. They are owned by private companies – not government entities – and profit margins impact the rate at which pipeline owners invest in safer pipes. Though the owners are private companies they are regulated by the Alabama Public Service Commission. Thanks to PHMSA decision to publicize the efforts and lack of efforts pipeline operators have made to line replacement is readily available. Citizens can now go to an official government website and see how rapidly pipeline operators in their states are replacing cast iron pipelines. This is not a reassuring picture for Alabama residents. Only 7 other states have more miles of cast iron pipeline than Alabama. In the 6 years between 2004 and 2010 pipeline companies in Alabama only reduced the number of miles of cast iron pipe by 321 miles (from 1,860 to 1,539). At that rate (53.5 miles a year) it will take over 28 years for the pipeline companies in Alabama to finally eliminate this obvious danger. On the other end of the spectrum are Alaska, Arizona, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, New Mexico, Nevada, Oregon, South Carolina, Utah, Vermont, Wisconsin, and Wyoming. The pipeline owners in those states have totally eliminated cast iron pipelines. If you think pipeline owners in Alabama should be replacing cast iron pipelines more rapidly notify the Alabama Public Service Commission, P.O. Box 304260 Montgomery, Alabama 36130-4260

– Pete Burns

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