Accident investigators say there are systemic weaknesses in the way natural gas providers protect against the rupture of major, high-pressure pipelines in populated areas. They are pointing to three powerful accidents in California, Florida and West Virginia in recent years.
A report by the National Transportation Safety Board urges changes in how pipelines are inspected. It questions whether pipelines in populated areas with the greatest potential for damaging explosions are given adequate priority.
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In each of the accidents examined by the board, the gas companies failed to conduct inspections or tests that might have revealed pipeline weaknesses.
The U.S. is crisscrossed by nearly 300,000 miles of gas transmission pipelines, more than half of which were installed before 1970.