2011 December Preventing Pipeline Disasters with Local Regulations
mckenna mckenna

Beneath almost every community lies a network of oil, natural gas, water and several other types of pipelines, silently criss-crossing public and private property to transport vital resources to where they are needed. Most people are unaware this complicated infrastructure even exists or that it poses critical public safety issues. That is, until disaster strikes.

"While serious pipeline accidents are rare, when they do happen, the results can be devastating—resulting in death or injury, destruction of property or damage to the environment," said McKenna Senior Vice President Sally Hodges, AICP, IAP2. "The potential seriousness of these accidents demonstrates why it's so important that in addition to relying on federal guidelines, local municipalities adopt their own pipeline safety measures to prevent or at least minimize tragedy."

McKenna planners have practical applications for communities to protect citizens, property and the environment against pipeline disasters. These include ways to address pipeline safety in the master plan and the possibility of establishing a "pipeline overlay zone" with special restrictions near pipelines. In some cases, additional regulations include land use or zoning restrictions such as setback requirements near the pipeline or limits on housing density in its immediate vicinity.

Pipeline safety issues can be addressed during the master plan process or as part of a routine update to the zoning ordinance. According to Hodges, "The time to address pipeline safety is not when disaster strikes—but before."

For more information about protecting your community from pipeline disasters, contact your McKenna planner or Sally Hodges at shodges@mcka.com