New Orleans Pipeline Safety Meeting This Week
Bellingham, WA-based Pipeline Safety Trust is holding its 2010 conference at the Hotel Monteleone in New Orleans, November 4 and 5. Plains Justice Staff Attorney Paul Blackburn will appear head to head with Keystone Pipelines Vice President Robert Jones on Friday afternoon, in a session titled “TransCanada’s Keystone Pipelines – What’s All the Buzz?”. The full agenda includes presentations by Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration officials, a U.S. House committee staffer, industry representatives, local and county government representatives, and nonprofit staffers.
The Trust has quite an origin tale. According to their website,
“The Pipeline Safety Trust came into being based on the efforts and recommendations of SAFE Bellingham and the families of Liam Wood and Stephen Tsiorvas who were killed in the 1999 explosion. SAFE Bellingham – a grassroots watchdog group concerned with pipeline safety – and the families fought for better pipeline oversight and accident prevention measures. These Bellingham residents made it their number one priority to organize a perpetually funded oversight organization to ensure safer pipelines nationwide.
Much of the inspiration for the Pipeline Safety Trust is borrowed from a citizen oversight organization in Alaska that successfully changed oil tanker safety practices after the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill. The need for the Pipeline Safety Trust gained written support from Washington Governor Gary Locke, the Washington State Utilities and Transportation Commission, the Washington State Citizens Committee on Pipeline Safety, many local governments, and pipeline safety advocates nationwide.
On June 18, 2003, U.S. District Judge Barbara Rothstein ordered that four million dollars of the criminal fines imposed as a result of the Bellingham tragedy be awarded as an endowment to fund the Pipeline Safety Trust. Judge Rothstein noted that the Trust, with only 4 million dollars, was like “Bambi taking on Godzilla,” but she chided the pipeline industry to listen to and work with the Pipeline Safety Trust so tragedies like Bellingham do not happen again.”