Pipelines bucked the national trend when it comes to transportation fatalities in the United States. According to preliminary figures released Feb. 14 by the National Transportation Safety Board, pipeline related fatalities fell from 2011 to 2012, whereas the total increased by three percent during the same period.
The data indicate that transportation fatalities in all modes totaled 35,531 in 2012, compared to 34,551 in 2011. Pipeline deaths totaled 12 in 2012, compared to 14 in 2011. In addition, marine and aviation deaths also declined, but highway and rail fatalities showed an increase.
“We have a serious public health and safety epidemic on our highways,” said NTSB chairman Deborah A. P. Hersman.
To address growing concerns related to the safety of moving crude oil by rail, the board issued emergency rules on Feb. 25 to require extensive tests to improve a system that had become “an imminent hazard to public health and safety and the environment.”
The order is aimed at operations in the Bakken shale, where production outpaces the capacity of pipelines to move crude to refineries. In just a few years, trains full of Bakken oil have started moving across North America, which has led to explosive incidents in the United States and Canada.
The 2012 NTSB statistics show that railroad deaths increased six percent from 757 to 803.
The pipeline fatalities broke down to nine deaths related to gas pipelines in 2012, and three deaths related to liquids pipelines. In 2011, it was 13 deaths related to gas pipelines and one related to liquids.