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Information Held Secret by City Available Online from Federal Government

It turns out that there are ways to get partially past Richmond’s obsession with secrecy and security.


Thanks to Carl Weimer of the Pipeline Safety Trust , I have found that you can access the federal Office of Pipeline Safety's mapping system at: https://www.npms.phmsa.dot.gov/.   Once you get there you can view maps of your area by hitting the Public Map Viewer button above the picture. I was able to quickly pull up a map of Richmond showing gas transmission pipelines and hazardous liquid pipelines. They do literally crisscross the City. By choosing a layer and using the “identify” (“i”) button, I clicked on one of the liquid pipelines shown on that map and got identity information.  If you hit the "?" button on the site it can help you figure out how to see what you want, although in general the site is not very user friendly.


Carl also attached an agenda of the Pipeline Safety Trust conference in New Orleans in November that deals with local land use and pipeline safety issues in case you really want to get more information. Richmond is not the only place where people want to know what’s running below their streets, and they have been willing to litigate to get it.


Below is a brief synopsis of the lawsuit going on in Washington state over release of pipeline GIS data. If you go to the website shown you can get to the actual court decisions.


Carl Weimer, Executive Director
Pipeline Safety Trust
1155 N.  State St.  Suite 609
Bellingham, WA  98225





Appeals Court Blocks Release of Pipeline Data Pending Review


October 2, 2007 -- The Washington state Court of Appeals, Division II has reversed a decision of the Thurston County Superior Court that had ordered the UTC to release to the public pipeline location data contained in the pipeline safety program's computer data base. Today's decision orders the Superior Court to issue a preliminary injunction against the release of that information and to conduct a trial on the merits of a permanent injunction.

Six daily newspapers and two private citizens filed requests in February under the state's public disclosure act seeking release of the pipeline data. Several pipeline operators challenged the request in Thurston County Superior Court, arguing that disclosure of the data posed a risk to public safety and security.  

On March 16, 2007, Superior Court Judge Richard Hicks rejected the pipelines'arguments and ordered the UTC to release the data contained in the database. The database, a geographic information system, organizes data by location and includes information about the features of the hazardous liquid pipelines and high-pressure natural gas pipelines operating in Washington.

On March 19, 2007, the pipeline companies appealed Judge Hicks' decision and asked the appellate court to block the release of the records pending a review of the Judge Hicks' decision. The Court of Appeals granted that request.  Today's decision came after written briefs and oral argument on June 29, 2007.  A schedule for the trial on a permanent injunction has not yet been determined.


Although the general location of Richmond’s pipelines are accessible on the Internet, the exact location remains a secret. For example, we know there is a ConocoPhillips pipeline running down the Parkway next to Atchison Village, but we don’t know how close it is, what size it is, or what is in it.