February 2, 2016 / 11:35 PM / 3 years ago

U.S. urges gas storage owners to shore up leak prevention

(Reuters) - Federal pipeline safety regulators on Tuesday urged operators of underground natural gas storage facilities to shore up efforts to prevent leaks like the one that has devastated a Los Angeles area community.

The recommendations from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration are not formal regulations, but are the agency’s first step toward addressing what some view as a lack of oversight of underground gas storage fields.

“This states our expectations for how a facility should be managed and operated,” agency spokeswoman Artealia Gilliard said.

The agency is working to propose new regulations that would address the safety of underground gas storage facilities, Administrator Marie Therese Dominguez said in a statement accompanying the so-called advisory bulletin.

The bulletin, which will be published in the Federal Register, reminds storage field owners to comply with state regulations and urges them to implement best practices developed by the American Petroleum Institute.

Most underground gas storage facilities are regulated at the state level, but those storing gas to be transported across state lines falls is overseen by PHMSA. The agency has never written rules for gas storage despite two decades of sporadic calls for regulation and at least two accidents.

A natural gas storage well at Southern California Gas’ Aliso Canyon facility sprung a leak in October, forcing thousands of residents from their homes and spewing massive amounts of methane, a potent greenhouse gas. The leak, which revealed the weak oversight of underground natural gas storage facilities, has yet to be contained.

Southern California Gas is a unit of Sempra Energy.

Reporting by Nichola Groom; editing by Grant McCool

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