Safety of Liquefied Energy Gases Facilities

Gao ID: 109229 April 25, 1979

The measures being planned by the Department of Transportation (DOT) concerning the siting and safety of liquefied energy gases (LEG) facilities appear to be inadequate. Facilities are built to the same standards as ordinary buildings and are not designed to withstand phenomena such as earthquakes or sabotage. Dikes surrounding the tanks are designed to contain only small leaks. LEG trucking to and from storage facilities is dangerous. Corporate structures and legal limits on liability offer no protection to the public. As part of the Senate's consideration to amend the Natural Gas Pipeline Safety Act of 1968, it is suggested that a separate title to the Act should provide for large storage facilities, and the Federal Government should regulate every facility storing large quantities of hazardous commodities at one location, whether or not connected to pipelines. The proposed legislation should emphasize these recommendations: (1) remote siting for storage facilities should be required; (2) DOT should evaluate each existing large hazardous commodity storage facility; and (3) owners and operators of a large hazardous commodity storage facility should be strictly liable without regard to fault for damages, including cleanup costs, sustained by any person or entity as a result of explosion, fire, or discharge. Safety standards already proposed by DOT require that the impounding system have a configuration to prevent liquid from escaping under the worst possible spill conditions. GAO is concerned that the DOT response has not met two major GAO recommendations: a requirement that all new large LEG facilities be built in remote areas, and a prohibition against LEG transportation through densely populated areas.

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