Stacey Gerard, OPS Associate Administrator, says that rather than respond to each of the proposals on a piecemeal basis, OPS is developing a long-term plan to deal with NTSB's concerns, a strategy she feels will ultimately be more effective.
According to OPS's annual figures (which are subject to change as more data come in), pipelines in 2000 suffered their worst year in terms of causing economic damage--$156,925,184 worth to be exact--nearly double the $86,856,82 OPS totaled for 1999.
OPS also can't know of all the leaks and damage because operators don't have to report spills of less than 21,000 gallons (50 barrels).
OPS ordered Colonial to reduce pressure in the line, but still won't make the company fix it and Pates fears another crack could cause another water outage.
Part of the problem is that Congress simply has never given OPS the resources to do its job properly.
With so few resources, OPS has relied on the industry to perform its own inspections and develop its own safety plans.
Back in 1990, OPS assessed fines in almost half its enforcement actions.
OPS official Byron Coy testified to NTSB that "fundamental systems that were installed in the '60s typically had useful lives of nearly 20 years, but the pace of technological advancement has caused some systems that were installed even in the '90s to be considered mature.
To fill the vacuum left by OPS, GAO recommended last year that OPS get states more involved in regulating pipelines to better leverage federal resources, but so far, OPS hasn't done much on that front.
In the transportation appropriations bill awaiting Bush's signature, OPS got funding for 26 more professionals it wanted, including inspectors and legal staff.