More Alaska drilling proposed as DOT considers new pipeline regulations

Spurred by oil giant BP’s many Alaska leaks, the Department of Transportation will soon propose tighter rules for minor petroleum pipelines. BP’s North Slope lines were exempt from certain federal regulations because they operated at low pressure in a rural area, and weren’t near commercially navigable waters. Thus, despite as much as 14 years of neglect, BP may not have violated any federal regs. The new rules could make life easier for DOT’s fewer than 100 inspectors, who are responsible for 200,000 miles of pipeline. Low-pressure lines account for half the oil spilled nationwide, by volume, so the rule expansion will come none too soon: the Interior Department is set to open tens of thousands of acres of environmentally sensitive North Slope wetlands to new oil drilling. Now, when the inevitable spills send oil all over that land, we’ll all have the comfort of knowing that federal regulations were violated and oil companies will get a stern talking-to. Whew.