WASHINGTON—Public scrutiny of BP's pipeline maintenance intensified this week, with lawmakers pledging two more congressional hearings to examine how to prevent transmission lines from corroding to the point of failure.
Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, on Friday scheduled a hearing of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, which he chairs, for Sept. 13.
He said in a statement that the panel would call in officials from BP along with federal and state regulators to consider ways to prevent further corrosion problems on low-pressure lines to the Trans-Alaska Pipeline.
Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., who chairs the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, said he would hold a hearing, tentatively scheduled for Sept. 12, because he was concerned about the impact on the U.S. oil supply.
"I am particularly worried about what the loss of this oil will mean if the nation faces another difficult hurricane season or a harsh winter," Domenici said Thursday.
They join a growing chorus of government officials who want to know what went wrong on the North Slope.
In March, more than 200,000 gallons of oil seeped out of holes in corroded low-pressure lines, which unlike high-pressure lines are exempt from federal regulation. BP told lawmakers and federal regulators that it had a monitoring system that should have prevented the leaks.
This month, BP was forced to shut down some production on Prudhoe Bay because of another leak and concern that the problem could multiply.
That incident soon was followed by an announcement by the House Energy and Commerce Committee that it would hold a hearing Sept. 7.
Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, said at a news conference Thursday that he planned to convene the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee to discuss the matter as well, though a hearing hasn't been formally scheduled.
Lawmakers are considering a reauthorization of a 2002 pipeline-safety act and regulations for low-pressure lines.
Officials at the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration are planning to set testing and maintenance rules for low-pressure lines.
(c) 2006, McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.
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