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Transmission Pipelines and Land Use: A Risk-Informed Approach -- Special Report 281 (2004)

Chapter:2 Potential Land Use Approaches to Pipeline Safety and Environmental Management

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Suggested Citation:"2 Potential Land Use Approaches to Pipeline Safety and Environmental Management." Transportation Research Board. 2004. Transmission Pipelines and Land Use: A Risk-Informed Approach -- Special Report 281. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11046.
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2
Potential Land Use Approaches to Pipeline Safety and Environmental Management

Land uses around transmission pipelines are regulated by the terms of rights-of-way agreements negotiated between pipeline owners and landowners and, to a limited extent, by a variety of state and local land use regulations. A database of state and local practices with regard to land uses and activities near transmission pipelines and literature evaluating the effectiveness of various approaches to keeping people and pipelines separated at a “safe” distance are lacking. Therefore, this chapter presents a discussion of tools that can be used. The discussion is drawn from notable recent examples and, by analogy, from state and local efforts to protect against natural and industrial hazards. Of principal concern are strategies to manage land use and the proximity of people to pipelines to help prevent severe accidents caused by the disturbance of pipelines and to minimize damage when accidents occur. A brief description of the safety and environmental issues that arise in managing existing pipeline rights-of-way is included.

CURRENT AND PROSPECTIVE LAND USE CONTROLS

Rights-of-Way

The only consistently applied land use control over transmission pipelines is the management and use of the pipeline right-of-way itself. A right-of-way is “a piece of property in which a pipeline company and a landowner both have a legal interest. Each has a right to be there, although each has a different type of use for the land” (API 2004, 2). The right-of-way used during construction is generally 75 to 100 feet wide, although extra space is usually required at road or stream crossings or

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Suggested Citation:"2 Potential Land Use Approaches to Pipeline Safety and Environmental Management." Transportation Research Board. 2004. Transmission Pipelines and Land Use: A Risk-Informed Approach -- Special Report 281. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11046.
×

because of terrain or soil conditions. The permanent right-of-way usually ranges from 25 to 50 feet wide, but this may vary because it is negotiated with each property owner on the basis of each pipeline company’s internal policies, type of pipeline, regulatory requirements, and the needs and demands of each property owner. In some cases, the dimensions of the rights-of-way are not mentioned.

Rights-of-way have traditionally been established by pipeline operators for the purposes of constructing, inspecting, and repairing pipelines in an economical manner. Right-of-way agreements typically establish “legal rights to pass through grounds or property owned by another” (Black’s Law Dictionary). Although it is customary for a company to use a “standardized form,” the terms can vary dramatically on the basis of a number of factors, including the time of negotiation of the agreement. For example, many older right-of-way agreements are far less specific with regard to uses prohibited on the right-of-way than are the agreements negotiated today.

The most common form of right-of-way agreement is called an easement, which usually gives the operator a permanent legal right to use the right-of-way for construction and operation of the pipeline, including the right to repair and maintain the pipeline. The authority of pipeline operators to control the use of the right-of-way is limited by the terms of the easement agreement; control does not extend to any property not covered by the easement (e.g., adjoining property).

A pipeline easement usually describes its purpose, its duration, the boundaries of the easement area, renewal fees, rights of the pipeline company to gain access to and use the easement area, rights of the landowner, the number and size of the pipelines, materials that may be transported in the pipeline, rights for expansion, procedures for communications among parties, and procedures for abandonment (definition and responsibilities) (Rabinow 2004). Many older easements are much more vague or illdefined. Public authorities generally have no input into the contents of such easements and no copies of the recorded instruments; however, most easement agreements are on record with the county register of deeds. As a practical matter, many subsequent fee simple owners of the property may not take the initiative to learn whether such easements exist or what they specify.

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Suggested Citation:"2 Potential Land Use Approaches to Pipeline Safety and Environmental Management." Transportation Research Board. 2004. Transmission Pipelines and Land Use: A Risk-Informed Approach -- Special Report 281. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11046.
×

A liquids pipeline company desiring to invest in a new line has a number of options for acquiring a right-of-way. Whichever approach is pursued, an analysis of the alternative routes and the issues associated with each is the starting point. Once a preferred route has been selected, the pipeline company has the option of buying the right-of-way in fee, in which case the company becomes the landowner and maintains full control. This option is expensive and rarely utilized. Alternatively, the pipeline company can approach the landowners along the proposed right-of-way and negotiate voluntary agreements for easements. If that fails for one or more tracts along the route and the proposed pipeline will be a common carrier, the pipeline company may, as a last resort, use its right of eminent domain as spelled out in the statutes of the particular state. Eminent domain usually involves a court proceeding, which can be time-consuming and expensive. However, under many states’ laws, the pipeline operator may obtain access to the property to keep the project moving forward before all issues as to just compensation to the landowner are determined. Although this discussion has focused on private landowners, the permitting process for the use of public lands usually has many similar features.

In contrast, for interstate natural gas transmission pipelines, there is a federally granted power of eminent domain to establish rights-of-way. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) delegates its power of eminent domain to the pipeline operator to acquire necessary rights-of-way. FERC requires a permanent right-of-way of 50 feet for inspection and maintenance.

Land Use Within and Near the Pipeline Right-of-Way

Land use regulation is widely viewed as an exclusively local government prerogative, though, in fact, local land use practices derive from powers delegated to cities, towns, villages, and counties by their states. In some states, the states themselves set land use policy on subjects such as growth management or mandate various kinds of land use and development regulation to protect sensitive and critical environments and mitigate natural hazards (Burby et al. 1997). Moreover, the federal government has strongly influenced land use in legislation and regulation affecting coastal zones, floodplains, and wetlands. The federal government also

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Suggested Citation:"2 Potential Land Use Approaches to Pipeline Safety and Environmental Management." Transportation Research Board. 2004. Transmission Pipelines and Land Use: A Risk-Informed Approach -- Special Report 281. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11046.
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frequently preempts state and local prerogatives in interstate commerce, and this is particularly true in pipeline regulation. For example, FERC is empowered to override private landowners, as well as state and local governments if need be, in siting new interstate natural gas transmission pipelines. Even so, the principal agent of land use regulation is local government, and this is particularly true in the case of separating people and pipelines.

Many local governments set forth general principles and guidelines for land development through comprehensive plans. In principle, comprehensive plans can guide urban development away from pipeline rights-of-way when other equally suitable areas are available to satisfy demands for land for urban growth and development. Plans are implemented, in the main, through zoning ordinances, decisions by zoning boards about requests for variances, and subdivision regulations. Local governments that do not have comprehensive plans nonetheless shape development through zoning and subdivision ordinances and their handling of applications for individual parcels.

Most land use planning and regulatory practices developed in the United States during the 20th century. Often they were driven by development and population growth that had already occurred. Land use planning is, therefore, typically most fully developed in urban and metropolitan areas. In contrast, formerly rural areas that are traversed by transmission pipelines laid 25 to 50 years ago and that are in the path of metropolitan expansion often have had or are experiencing development that has little or no zoning or subdivision requirements. Indeed, anecdotal evidence of building development, including schools, adjacent to transmission pipelines suggests that managing the risks to the public near pipelines has not been considered by many local governments.

Information from federal pipeline safety regulators, representatives of pipeline companies, and local officials provided to the committee over the course of its meetings indicated a few examples of actions taken by local governments. For instance, some only allow the lowest-density development around transmission pipelines and locate walking paths, bike paths, and recreational areas along pipeline rights-of-way. Some local government proposals have gone considerably further, often in reaction to spills and explosions. In general, however, the few examples of

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Suggested Citation:"2 Potential Land Use Approaches to Pipeline Safety and Environmental Management." Transportation Research Board. 2004. Transmission Pipelines and Land Use: A Risk-Informed Approach -- Special Report 281. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11046.
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local governments’ attempting more stringent controls have not been based on a systematic analysis of risk or of benefits and costs.

There is a considerable tradition in land use regulation of relying on distance to separate the public from industrial hazards. Local government zoning and other land use regulations attempt to separate industrial facilities from residences and other sensitive facilities and apply performance standards to provide protection from industrial harm (e.g., Chapin 1965; O’Harrow 1981; Rolf Jensen & Associates 1982; Schwab 1989). Buffers contained in zoning regulations vary widely. In Baton Rouge, Louisiana, for example, industrial uses are required to be separated by 25-foot buffers from adjacent uses. In Durham, North Carolina, facilities for the storage of flammable liquids and gases must be set back 100 feet from the property line. Facilities for the storage of explosives must be set back 200 feet from residences, but railroad cars carrying explosive or flammable material must not be parked within 1,000 feet of residences, hospitals, or other buildings used for public assembly. Similarly, Denver, Colorado, requires a 1,000-foot setback from aboveground fuel tanks. [See Schwab (1989) for extracts from these ordinances.] Data compiled by the Louisiana Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights (1993) indicate that 17 states have regulations specifying buffers around major facilities where accidents can harm surrounding land uses. Such buffers range from 500 feet to 3 miles. States also have established buffer zone requirements for hazardous waste facilities that range from 150 feet to 1/2 mile, with the most common being 200 feet.

The Bellingham, Washington, and Austin, Texas, ordinance examples (described in Box 1-3 of Chapter 1) illustrate common actions to establish large setbacks in response to pipeline accidents and new uses for existing pipelines. Setbacks, which are the recommended minimum distances from particular structures to the center of the pipeline (API 2004), are only one element of zoning and subdivision ordinances. However, they are of particular interest because they specify a minimum standard for separating development from pipelines. As illustrated in the examples from Bellingham and Austin, setbacks expand on an existing right-of-way or easement by limiting what a property owner may do with his or her property. For transmission pipelines, there are limits on construction or excavation that involve separating activities such as

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Suggested Citation:"2 Potential Land Use Approaches to Pipeline Safety and Environmental Management." Transportation Research Board. 2004. Transmission Pipelines and Land Use: A Risk-Informed Approach -- Special Report 281. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11046.
×

planting of trees or digging foundations some number of feet from the pipeline. API recommends setbacks of 50 feet from petroleum and hazardous liquids lines for new homes, businesses, and places of public assembly (API 2003). It also recommends 25 feet for garden sheds, septic tanks, and water wells and 10 feet for mailboxes and yard lights. As of the most recent report examining these issues, setbacks of 25 feet from residential property lines were the most common examples in practice (TRB 1988).

The committee was unable to find examples of comprehensive analytical efforts to establish setbacks from pipelines on the basis of risk. Research conducted during the 1980s with regard to liquids pipelines showed that two-thirds of deaths and damage and three-fourths of injuries occurred within 150 feet of the point of discharge; only 8 percent of deaths, none of the injuries, and 6 percent of property damage extended as far as 1/2 mile from the pipeline (Rusin and Savvides-Gellerson 1987 cited in TRB 1988). The example from the Municipal Research and Services Center of Washington model ordinance (see Box 1-3 in Chapter 1) is a beginning at developing a risk-informed setback, but it accounts only for the probable area of effect should an explosion occur, without taking into account the probability of such an event. As indicated in Chapter 3, the probability of such an event has not been formally estimated and would be a challenge to develop.

Establishing an appropriate setback would not be a simple task. Consider the following:

  • Rights-of-way/setbacks for high-pressure natural gas transmission and hazardous liquids pipelines would have to be wide to minimize risk as a result of a high-consequence event and therefore could be costly if interpreted as a regulatory “taking” requiring compensation to property owners.

  • A cost-benefit analysis of setbacks wider than current practice has not been conducted.

  • Setbacks based on, or informed by, some level of risk assessment could be complex to account for given the variation in product, pipe dimensions, pressurization, depth of cover, and related characteristics.

  • Local governments generally prefer simple, rather than complex, regulatory approaches.

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Suggested Citation:"2 Potential Land Use Approaches to Pipeline Safety and Environmental Management." Transportation Research Board. 2004. Transmission Pipelines and Land Use: A Risk-Informed Approach -- Special Report 281. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11046.
×
  • Increased land and housing costs reduce the number of households that can afford to purchase homes—by 424,000 for every $1,000 increase in the price of a new home costing $100,000 or more (Emrath and Eisenberg 2002). In some cases, this adverse effect can be avoided if localities provide adequate housing densities in areas not at risk from pipeline accidents.

New requirements may render many existing homes nonconforming, a status that could reduce their value and inhibit their opportunity to make improvements.

Thus, there are many practical and cost implications of introducing setbacks significantly greater than already exist. The next chapter suggests a risk-informed approach that would take into account issues such as those described above.

Safety-Related Practices

State and local governments can implement a wide range of measures in addition to setbacks to ensure that awareness of the existence of pipelines is heightened and best practices followed during digging in rights-of-way. Many practical suggestions were made in the report Pipelines and Public Safety (TRB 1988). Furthermore, new guidance on these topics has already been developed by the Common Ground Task Force and is now being promoted by the Common Ground Alliance (CGA), a non-profit organization dedicated to fostering shared responsibility in preventing damage to underground utilities.

Collective Action—CGA

The Common Ground Task Force, sponsored by the Office of Pipeline Safety (OPS) in accordance with the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century, Public Law 105-178, was a joint government-industry quality team (consisting of 160 members) whose purpose was to identify and validate existing best practices for the safe and reliable construction, operation, maintenance, and protection of underground facilities.

The Common Ground Task Force’s mission was based on the assumption that damage prevention should be a shared responsibility of all stakeholders (e.g., state agencies, one-call system operators, underground facility owners/operators, contractor associations). More accu-

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Suggested Citation:"2 Potential Land Use Approaches to Pipeline Safety and Environmental Management." Transportation Research Board. 2004. Transmission Pipelines and Land Use: A Risk-Informed Approach -- Special Report 281. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11046.
×

rate information and consistent communication between excavators and operators of underground facilities are essential (OPS 1999). In carrying out its task, the Common Ground Task Force formed a steering team, a linking team, and nine task teams—planning and design, one-call center, locating and marking, excavation, mapping, compliance, public education and awareness, reporting and evaluation, and emerging technologies—each of which developed a set of best practices. The steering team provided senior-level representation and support for the study, while the linking team served as a review board and was responsible for facilitating the sharing of information across teams. Each task team identified and evaluated best practices specific to its area of focus and discussed new practices, equipment, or methodologies that appeared promising in terms of improving damage prevention efforts. The prospective technologies, however, could not be included as best practices because their effectiveness could not be evaluated.

To further the work of the Common Ground Task Force, CGA was formed. CGA, which is currently composed of more than 900 individuals and 125 member organizations, established a Best Practices Committee to add to the best practices identified by the task force and to publish the CGA Best Practices guide (2004). This report is a restatement of the best practices found in the earlier report (OPS 1999). The guide will be updated periodically as new practices and technologies emerge.

CGA’s major mission has been to develop and promote the use of one-call systems throughout the country. These systems foster much greater knowledge by excavators and contractors about the presence of underground utilities, and according to Zelenak et al. (2003) and others, they have resulted in a downtrend of reportable incidents for natural gas transmission and gathering systems pipelines from 1985 through 2000. CGA also keeps current a guidebook of best practices, which includes such strategies as better mapping of underground utilities, markers of transmission lines, notation of pipelines on plat maps and plans, disclosure of rights-of-way and related easements on land transactions, and so forth. The practices recommended in the guide are too numerous to detail here. A list of the subjects covered is provided below; more information about them is available at www. commongroundalliance.com.

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Suggested Citation:"2 Potential Land Use Approaches to Pipeline Safety and Environmental Management." Transportation Research Board. 2004. Transmission Pipelines and Land Use: A Risk-Informed Approach -- Special Report 281. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11046.
×

Best practices identified in the CGA report that are relevant to the committee’s work include the following:

  • Planning and design (e.g., plat designation of underground facility easements, markers for underground facilities),

  • One-call center practices (e.g., proactive public awareness, public education, and damage prevention activities),

  • Location and marking practices (e.g., safe location and marking, visual inspections, documentation),

  • Excavation practices (e.g., one-call facility locate request, locate verification, documentation, maintenance/replacement of markings disturbed, damage notification, notification of emergency personnel, backfilling), and

  • Public education practices (e.g., marketing, target audiences, mailings, advertising, strategic relationships with stakeholders).

CGA has also entered into a cooperative agreement with OPS, initiated the CGA Regional Partner Program, assisted OPS in closing seven outstanding National Transportation Safety Board recommendations, played a role in incorporating the establishment of three-digit dialing into the Pipeline Safety Improvement Act of 2002, and finalized development of the CGA Damage Information Reporting Tool to serve as a national repository for underground damage data.

Industry Recommendations

Another useful precedent in this area is an effort undertaken by the American Petroleum Institute (API), a trade association of oil companies, in developing best practices for petroleum pipelines. API’s Recommended Practice 1162 (RP 1162), which is now approved by the American National Standards Institute, focuses on public awareness programs for key stakeholders along existing transmission pipelines, establishes minimum recommended practices for all pipeline operators, and provides guidelines for supplemental recommended practices where conditions suggest a more intensive effort. RP 1162 identifies audiences (e.g., public officials, local and state emergency response agencies, the public, commercial and agricultural excavators) to be contacted, effective messages and communications methods, and information for evaluating and updating public awareness programs (API 2003). OPS intends to incorporate the

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Suggested Citation:"2 Potential Land Use Approaches to Pipeline Safety and Environmental Management." Transportation Research Board. 2004. Transmission Pipelines and Land Use: A Risk-Informed Approach -- Special Report 281. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11046.
×

guidance provided in RP 1162 into pipeline safety regulations. OPS issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to this effect on June 24, 2004.

Government Requirements for Pipeline Operators: Land Use

Surrounding land uses and population densities are incorporated in some existing regulations of pipeline operations. For example, 49 CFR 192, which applies to natural gas pipelines, defines area classifications on the basis of population density in the vicinity of a natural gas pipeline and specifies more rigorous requirements as human population density increases. A class location unit is defined as an area that extends 220 yards, or 1/8 mile, on either side of the centerline of any continuous 1-mile length of natural gas pipeline (49 CFR 192.5). Class locations are categorized by the extent and type of development within the boundaries— the more dense the development, the more stringent the requirements. There are four area classifications:

Class 1.

Locations with 10 or fewer buildings intended for human occupancy;

Class 2.

Locations with more than 10 but fewer than 46 buildings intended for human occupancy;

Class 3.

Locations with 46 or more buildings intended for human occupancy or where the pipeline lies within 100 yards of any building or small, well-defined outside area occupied by 20 or more people during normal use; and

Class 4.

Locations where buildings with four or more stories above-ground are prevalent.

Natural gas pipelines constructed on land in Class 1 locations must be installed with a minimum depth of cover of 30 inches in normal soil or 18 inches in consolidated rock; pipelines installed in navigable rivers, streams, and harbors must have a minimum cover of 48 inches in soil or 24 inches in consolidated rock. Pipelines in Class 2, 3, and 4 locations must be installed with a minimum depth of cover of 36 inches in normal soil or 24 inches in consolidated rock. In addition, pipe wall thickness, pipeline design pressures, hydrostatic test pressures, maximum allowable operating pressure, valve spacing, frequency of inspection and test-

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Suggested Citation:"2 Potential Land Use Approaches to Pipeline Safety and Environmental Management." Transportation Research Board. 2004. Transmission Pipelines and Land Use: A Risk-Informed Approach -- Special Report 281. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11046.
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ing of welds, and frequency of pipeline patrols and leak surveys must conform to higher standards in more populated areas. According to API (2004), 48-inch cover over pipelines is required where a vehicle crossing is to be made for axle loads up to 15,000 pounds; 72-inch cover is required for railroads. However, ground cover is not to exceed 72 inches unless approved by the pipeline operator. Liquids pipelines do have depth of cover requirements based on the nature of the area, but class locations are not part of the liquids pipeline safety regulations.

Despite the lack of risk-based technical guidance for making land use decisions near transmission pipelines, the committee noted that much can be learned from hazard mitigation management techniques and strategies that have been adopted by state and local governments, some of which might be effective in managing pipeline risks. At present, numerous local governments employ building standards, site design requirements, land use controls, and public awareness measures to reduce losses due to natural hazards. Many heavily populated areas of the country are subject to natural disasters such as flooding, earthquakes, mudslides, and storms (hurricanes, tornadoes, and so forth). Natural disasters bear some similarities to pipeline accidents, although the analogy is not perfect. Both involve a degree of risk that is difficult to calculate. Although the risk may be low, it is not zero. Incidents of loss of life and limb and damage to property result from natural disasters with sufficient frequency that some jurisdictions require management of land uses and development to prevent or minimize damage (Burby 1998). Box 2-1 contains a brief description of risk management for floodplains.

States such as California, North Carolina, and Florida require development permits in risk-prone areas. North Carolina, Florida, and other states require buildings in areas at high risk for hurricanes to meet standards for wind resistance. California has seismic building codes and prohibits building construction on unstable soils. Florida has established a coastal building zone and requires buildings to meet standards for wind resistance (Burby et al. 1997). Many localities, in compliance with requirements of the National Flood Insurance Program, greatly restrict or do not allow development within identified floodways and floodplains. The type of risk assessment the committee envisions, however, goes well beyond the current practice of insurance companies.

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Suggested Citation:"2 Potential Land Use Approaches to Pipeline Safety and Environmental Management." Transportation Research Board. 2004. Transmission Pipelines and Land Use: A Risk-Informed Approach -- Special Report 281. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11046.
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BOX 2-1

The Floodplain Scenario

Many heavily populated areas of the country are subject to natural disasters such as flooding, earthquakes, mud slides, and storms (hurricanes, tornadoes, and so forth). Natural disasters bear some similarities to pipeline accidents, although the analogy is not perfect. Both involve a degree of risk that is difficult to calculate and predict.

The Federal Floodplain Management System is a risk-based land use program that was established by Congress in 1968. Thousands of localities use and enforce this program, which enables property owners to obtain flood insurance in areas at risk from periodic flooding. To use the risk-analysis framework outlined here, the national flood maps show a predicted elevation above sea level that floodwaters will reach in a scenario (the 100-year flood).

The likelihood or probability of water reaching this specific level is once every 100 years (“the 100-year floodplain”). The consequence in such a scenario is that a building or structure built below this elevation will likely be damaged or destroyed. Localities deal with these possible consequences by requiring property owners to flood-proof their property or take other damage mitigation measures to protect life and property.

Thus, the federal flood insurance program is a land use program based on the management of risk. The scenarios, probabilities, and consequences of pipeline incidents are, of course, very different from those of floods and therefore require very different factors, but the conceptual process is the same.

State and local government awareness of the risk and a commitment to planning accordingly are critical. According to Burby et al. (1997), local governments with land use plans employ more development management techniques than do local governments without such plans, and the mix of techniques is different. Governments with plans demonstrate a

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Suggested Citation:"2 Potential Land Use Approaches to Pipeline Safety and Environmental Management." Transportation Research Board. 2004. Transmission Pipelines and Land Use: A Risk-Informed Approach -- Special Report 281. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11046.
×

greater ability to guide the location and nature of land development before it occurs and are more likely to use “measures for structural hazard control, which have been adopted in greater number than either land use or site design measures. This is important because it indicates that plans help communities develop balanced programs of hazard mitigation that use a full range of mitigation techniques” (Burby et al. 1997, 122).

As with many public policies that involve multiple levels of government, the formulation of effective strategies is difficult due to the different incentives at different levels of government. States, for example, might be more compelled to impose controls to protect public safety, while local jurisdictions might have a greater incentive to encourage development and less incentive to enforce mandates that restrict development because of the low probability of the risks. Even so, the hazard mitigation efforts of the states provide better and worse models of cross-governmental implementation (Berke 1998).

ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES WITHIN RIGHTS-OF-WAY

The need to keep rights-of-way cleared to permit inspection and maintenance of the pipelines must be balanced against the need to allow a degree of ecological function and vegetation growth. Installation of transmission pipelines requires that the work area be cleared of vegetation and graded, if necessary, to accommodate construction activities. This usually results in a loss of habitat in the area during construction of the pipeline. After installation, the work area is typically seeded to a mixture of grasses, and within a short time a grassland community develops that provides habitat to a wildlife community adapted to this early successional vegetative stage (Adams and Geis 1979). In addition, these open, grassy areas are attractive nesting and feeding areas for a number of woodland wildlife species (Everett et al. 1979; Ladino and Gates 1979). The extent of change depends in large part on the type of vegetative cover that is traversed by the pipeline. Small changes occur in active agricultural fields, and the greatest changes occur when forested areas are cleared to accommodate construction activities.

During operation of the transmission pipeline, the portion of the land atop the pipeline is typically maintained in a grassland community to

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Suggested Citation:"2 Potential Land Use Approaches to Pipeline Safety and Environmental Management." Transportation Research Board. 2004. Transmission Pipelines and Land Use: A Risk-Informed Approach -- Special Report 281. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11046.
×

facilitate inspection. Shrub communities on utility rights-of-way can provide a source of browse to certain woodland wildlife species (Lunseth 1987) and have been found to increase the abundance and diversity of wildlife species in adjacent wooded areas (Hanowski et al. 1993). In addition, because the outer edges of the right-of-way are not maintained, they often revert to shrub communities and provide habitat to a diverse wildlife community (Schreiber et al. 1976; Santillo 1993).

The installation and subsequent maintenance of a transmission pipeline can bring about a change in habitat along a narrow linear corridor. This can result in a change in wildlife species composition along the pipeline but typically does not have an adverse effect on the abundance or distribution of regional wildlife populations (Hanowski et al. 1993). However, in certain situations a particular habitat is sensitive to disturbance, and pipeline construction and maintenance activities could have a negative impact on wildlife species. For example, threatened or endangered species habitat or unique wetlands, if disturbed by construction activities, could adversely affect wildlife populations that rely on these sensitive habitats. Rights-of-way can also act as disturbance corridors for the movement and spread of invasive species.

From a landscape ecology perspective, rights-of-way in urban and suburban settings can provide enough natural habitat so that they become wildlife corridors and allow the movement of animals from one patch of natural habitat to another. In this setting they are important landscape management features for increasing the number of native flora and fauna species existing in an area. The more the rights-of-way are maintained in a natural state, the better wildlife corridor they become.

In contrast, pipeline rights-of-way in rural settings and the wide-open spaces of the West often function as one more landscape fragmentation feature, along with roads, canals, and power lines. Thus, in this setting rights-of-way tend to retard the movement of certain animals within their habitat.

Most pipeline regulations have to do with construction and remediation of any damage the construction causes. They are intended to prevent such losses as wetland destruction, excessive soil erosion, agricultural soil structure alteration, and river and stream bottom changes. The regulations do not prevent such ecological changes as increases in exotic or invasive

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Suggested Citation:"2 Potential Land Use Approaches to Pipeline Safety and Environmental Management." Transportation Research Board. 2004. Transmission Pipelines and Land Use: A Risk-Informed Approach -- Special Report 281. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11046.
×

vegetation species, so from an ecological perspective, they do not address completely the issues of preservation of resources and habitat. Some regulations require monitoring to be carried out after construction to ensure that basic environmental characteristics (plant cover, sedimentation control, hydrologic features) have returned to preconstruction status.

Once a pipeline is in place there is little guidance or regulation as to how the right-of-way should be managed to protect the environment or encourage habitat preservation. Many guidelines are available for the construction of pipelines in regard to the natural environments through which the pipelines run, whether uplands or wetlands (e.g., FERC 2003a; FERC 2003b; Moorhouse 2000; Van Dyke et al. 1994). In addition, many studies are being conducted on the impact of pipeline construction on habitats (e.g., Hinkle et al. 2000). Because the potential for damage is significant in the wetland environments, there is much more literature and debate about construction of pipeline rights-of-way through wetland than through upland environments (e.g., see www.fpb.gov.bc.ca/COMPLAINTS/IRC08/irc08s.htm). However, stricter regulations and more “watchdog” groups are widely believed to have brought about a reduction in the damage caused by the construction of pipelines though wetlands (see, for example, www.es.anl.gov/htmls/wetlands.html). None of the federal land managing agencies has guidelines that require habitat management. Many pipeline operators consider right-of-way management to be a maintenance task with structural goals but no ecological goals.

A growing body of information is available on how to restore damaged ecosystems (see www.ser.org), on landscape ecology and management, and on the ecology of species and communities. Such information would make feasible the development of guidelines that would assist in preserving habitat and species. It should be possible to develop guidance allowing certain types of vegetation—other than large trees—that would provide some habitat and natural buffer between properties while allowing for visual inspection of the pipeline. A path directly above the pipeline might be maintained free of woody vegetation, but the path need not be very wide. Shrubs, vines, grasses, and other similar native woody vegetation could be allowed to grow on either side of the path. Pruning would still be required periodically to make the path visible from above.

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Suggested Citation:"2 Potential Land Use Approaches to Pipeline Safety and Environmental Management." Transportation Research Board. 2004. Transmission Pipelines and Land Use: A Risk-Informed Approach -- Special Report 281. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11046.
×

SUMMARY

Local and state governments have little or no technical guidance available to assist them in managing the risk of the increasing number of people in proximity to pipelines through regulations and other tools governing land use, planning, zoning, and subdivision. Some local governments are proposing and developing new approaches to managing risk. However, state governments could take more of a leadership role, both in providing technical assistance and in requiring local governments to develop plans and regulations to prevent and mitigate damage from pipeline spills and explosions.

Local and state governments could adopt and promote best practices, such as those identified in the CGA Best Practices guide that encourage better “visibility” of transmission lines and major distribution lines in all real estate transactions. One-call centers have facilitated the reduction in pipeline breaks due to excavation damage. Federal law requires most categories of excavators to “call before they dig.” Municipal workforces, however, are exempt under many states’ laws. This exemption bears reexamination.

It appears feasible to allow certain types of vegetation within rights-of-way that would provide some habitat and yet permit visual inspection of rights-of-way by air. Government and industry could collaborate in the development of such guidance.

REFERENCES

Abbreviations

API American Petroleum Institute

CGA Common Ground Alliance

FERC Federal Energy Regulatory Commission

OPS Office of Pipeline Safety

TRB Transportation Research Board

Adams, L. W., and A. D. Geis. 1979. Roads and Roadside Habitat in Relation to Small Mammal Distribution and Abundance. Proc., Second Symposium on Environmental Concerns in Rights-of-Way Management, Ann Arbor, Mich.

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×

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Suggested Citation:"2 Potential Land Use Approaches to Pipeline Safety and Environmental Management." Transportation Research Board. 2004. Transmission Pipelines and Land Use: A Risk-Informed Approach -- Special Report 281. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11046.
×

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×
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Suggested Citation:"2 Potential Land Use Approaches to Pipeline Safety and Environmental Management." Transportation Research Board. 2004. Transmission Pipelines and Land Use: A Risk-Informed Approach -- Special Report 281. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11046.
×
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Suggested Citation:"2 Potential Land Use Approaches to Pipeline Safety and Environmental Management." Transportation Research Board. 2004. Transmission Pipelines and Land Use: A Risk-Informed Approach -- Special Report 281. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11046.
×
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Suggested Citation:"2 Potential Land Use Approaches to Pipeline Safety and Environmental Management." Transportation Research Board. 2004. Transmission Pipelines and Land Use: A Risk-Informed Approach -- Special Report 281. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11046.
×
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Suggested Citation:"2 Potential Land Use Approaches to Pipeline Safety and Environmental Management." Transportation Research Board. 2004. Transmission Pipelines and Land Use: A Risk-Informed Approach -- Special Report 281. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11046.
×
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Suggested Citation:"2 Potential Land Use Approaches to Pipeline Safety and Environmental Management." Transportation Research Board. 2004. Transmission Pipelines and Land Use: A Risk-Informed Approach -- Special Report 281. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11046.
×
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Suggested Citation:"2 Potential Land Use Approaches to Pipeline Safety and Environmental Management." Transportation Research Board. 2004. Transmission Pipelines and Land Use: A Risk-Informed Approach -- Special Report 281. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11046.
×
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Suggested Citation:"2 Potential Land Use Approaches to Pipeline Safety and Environmental Management." Transportation Research Board. 2004. Transmission Pipelines and Land Use: A Risk-Informed Approach -- Special Report 281. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11046.
×
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Suggested Citation:"2 Potential Land Use Approaches to Pipeline Safety and Environmental Management." Transportation Research Board. 2004. Transmission Pipelines and Land Use: A Risk-Informed Approach -- Special Report 281. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11046.
×
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Suggested Citation:"2 Potential Land Use Approaches to Pipeline Safety and Environmental Management." Transportation Research Board. 2004. Transmission Pipelines and Land Use: A Risk-Informed Approach -- Special Report 281. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11046.
×
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Suggested Citation:"2 Potential Land Use Approaches to Pipeline Safety and Environmental Management." Transportation Research Board. 2004. Transmission Pipelines and Land Use: A Risk-Informed Approach -- Special Report 281. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11046.
×
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Suggested Citation:"2 Potential Land Use Approaches to Pipeline Safety and Environmental Management." Transportation Research Board. 2004. Transmission Pipelines and Land Use: A Risk-Informed Approach -- Special Report 281. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11046.
×
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Suggested Citation:"2 Potential Land Use Approaches to Pipeline Safety and Environmental Management." Transportation Research Board. 2004. Transmission Pipelines and Land Use: A Risk-Informed Approach -- Special Report 281. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11046.
×
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Suggested Citation:"2 Potential Land Use Approaches to Pipeline Safety and Environmental Management." Transportation Research Board. 2004. Transmission Pipelines and Land Use: A Risk-Informed Approach -- Special Report 281. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11046.
×
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Suggested Citation:"2 Potential Land Use Approaches to Pipeline Safety and Environmental Management." Transportation Research Board. 2004. Transmission Pipelines and Land Use: A Risk-Informed Approach -- Special Report 281. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11046.
×
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Suggested Citation:"2 Potential Land Use Approaches to Pipeline Safety and Environmental Management." Transportation Research Board. 2004. Transmission Pipelines and Land Use: A Risk-Informed Approach -- Special Report 281. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11046.
×
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Suggested Citation:"2 Potential Land Use Approaches to Pipeline Safety and Environmental Management." Transportation Research Board. 2004. Transmission Pipelines and Land Use: A Risk-Informed Approach -- Special Report 281. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11046.
×
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Suggested Citation:"2 Potential Land Use Approaches to Pipeline Safety and Environmental Management." Transportation Research Board. 2004. Transmission Pipelines and Land Use: A Risk-Informed Approach -- Special Report 281. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11046.
×
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TRB Special Report 281: Transmission Pipelines and Land Use: A Risk-Informed Approach calls upon the U.S. Department of Transportation's Office of Pipeline Safety in the Research and Special Programs Administration to work with stakeholders in developing risk-informed land use guidance for use by policy makers, planners, local officials, and the public.

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