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As oil spill clean-up efforts intensify, so do questions about p - KSBY.com | San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara Area News

As oil spill clean-up efforts intensify, so do questions about pipeline company's history

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Plains All American Pipeline officials say their history of incidents is within industry standards, but a KSBY News analysis shows the company has had a long list of infractions.

Since 2006, Plains has had 175 incidents, spilled more than 688,000 gallons of hazardous liquids and caused more than $23 million worth of property damage, according to records from the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, which regulates the pipeline industry.

“In 2013, two-thirds of all those incidents reported to PHMSA industry wide were less than five barrels,” Plains' Patrick Hodgins said during a press conference Thursday evening.

In 2013, less than half of the incidents listed in the PHMSA records were less than five barrels. That year, Plains had one of its best years in the last decade when it comes to fewest barrels spilled, at 594 barrels. In 2014, Plains spilled almost four times that.

Here are the company's top incidents by amount of property damage since 2006:

Corrosion - $8.4 million in property damage

Other outside force damage - $5.7 million

Material/weld/equipment failure - $4.9 million

Excavation damage - $3.5 million

Incorrect operation - $1.2 million

Natural force damage - $105,200

All other causes - $14,095

Plains' Rick McMichael alluded to an issue with the equipment during a press conference Wednesday afternoon.

“At 10:45 a.m. on Tuesday, we experienced some mechanical issues at our Las Flores pump station,” McMichael said, explaining the flow rate at the time of the leak was 1,300 barrels per hour or 54,600 gallons per hour.

According to the company's worst case scenario estimate of 105,000 gallons released into the ground and ocean, it could mean the pipeline was leaking for close to two hours before workers manually shut it down.

The cause of the pipeline leak is still unknown, as the company is still excavating and investigating.

Plains' rate of incidents per mile of pipe is three times the national average, according to a Los Angeles Times analysis. And only four of the 1,700 pipeline operators listed with PHMSA reported more infractions than Plains.

“We will do everything in our power to making this right and returning things back to the way they were,” Hodgins said. “We are committed to continue our safety and excellence.”

Hodgins says the company is paying for the clean-up effort, and their focus is to get the number of incidents down to zero and regain the public's trust.

“Nevertheless one incident is one too many,” he said.

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