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Natural Gas Pipeline Safety

PUC's Responsibilities

The Oregon Public Utility Commission (PUC) has the responsibility to help protect the public and environment on safety issues regarding natural gas storage and transportation. The PUC’s Pipeline Safety Program works in partnership with the federal government under the Pipeline Safety Act. This directive applies to U.S. Code of Federal Regulations, Title 49 and safety standards administered by the U.S. Department of Transportation, Pipeline and Hazardous Material and Safety Administration. This program is to help ensure the safe design, construction, operation, and maintenance of pipeline facilities in the state of Oregon. This is accomplished through education, inspection, enforcement, as well as investigation of complaints, incidents, and accidents.
gas pipelines

The PUC regulates three major investor-owned natural gas operators in Oregon -- Northwest Natural Gas, Avista Utilities, and Cascade Natural Gas. Together, they provide service to more than 800,000 Oregon customers. To meet customer needs, the system includes a pipeline network of nearly 16,000 miles of distribution main lines and just over 730 miles of high-pressure transmission pipeline and related storage facilities. The PUC regulates 13 operators of intrastate pipelines that typically serve a single commercial entity.
Oregon also has two operators of interstate natural gas transmission pipelines that cross into Oregon from other states and Canada. Those operators are Williams Northwest Pipelines and TC Energy. Although the interstate pipelines are under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), the PUC may periodically assists PHMSA on inspections of these transmission lines.

Inspection Results

Once the PUC has completed an inspection, corrective action orders may be issued, which identify probable violations of the pipeline safety code. The companies must address these issues within the required response time.

The majority of damage to pipelines is caused by third-party damage, meaning an individual hit a pipeline while digging. Specifically in 2018, there was nearly 1,000 damages and over 60 percent resulted in a hazardous natural gas leak caused by digging errors. To minimize these incidents, Oregonians, whether a professional or a homeowner doing a do-it-yourself project, are required by law to call 811 to have underground utilities located prior to beginning any digging project.