Wondering whether natural gas and oil transportation pipelines are safe? Why not ask a neutral objective party — like, say, the pipeline industry? The federal government’s Pipeline Hazardous Materials Safety Administration is supposed to study and regulate pipeline safety. But as the San Francisco Chronicle discovered, in practice, the agency tends to hand that responsibility back over to the pipeline industry.

In the past decade, it turns out, the industry funded two-thirds of safety studies of land-based pipelines. This happened because the government — probably in another misguided attempt to save money — required that someone other than the government pay for at least half of these studies. And outside of the pipeline industry, who is interested in pipelines? Only the people who lives near them and stand to lose both property and health if the pipelines leak. But generally those people aren't rolling in dough, which is why the industry is routing pipelines through their neighborhoods to begin with.

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