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Safety Recommendation Details

Safety Recommendation P-03-003
Synopsis: At 5:26 a.m., mountain daylight time, on Saturday, August 19, 2000, a 30-inch-diameter natural gas transmission pipeline operated by El Paso Natural Gas Company (EPNG) ruptured adjacent to the Pecos River near Carlsbad, New Mexico. The released gas ignited and burned for 55 minutes. Twelve persons who were camping under a concrete-decked steel bridge that supported the pipeline across the river were killed and their three vehicles destroyed. Two nearby steel suspension bridges for gas pipelines crossing the river were extensively damaged. According to EPNG, property and other damages or losses totaled $998,296.
Recommendation: The National Transportation Safety Board makes the following safety recommendations to the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (Originally issued to RSPA): Evaluate the Office of Pipeline Safety’s pipeline operator inspection program to identify deficiencies that resulted in the failure of inspectors, before the Carlsbad, New Mexico, accident, to identify the inadequacies in El Paso Natural Gas Company’s internal corrosion control program. Implement the changes necessary to ensure adequate assessments of pipeline operator safety programs.
Original recommendation transmittal letter: PDF
Overall Status: Closed - Acceptable Action
Mode: Pipeline
Location: Carlsbad, NM, United States
Is Reiterated: No
Is Hazmat: No
Accident #: DCA00MP009
Accident Reports:
Natural Gas Pipeline Rupture and Fire
Report #: PAR-03-01
Accident Date: 8/19/2000
Issue Date: 2/27/2003
Date Closed: 8/21/2005
Addressee(s) and Addressee Status: RSPA (Closed - Acceptable Action)

Safety Recommendation History
From: RSPA
Date: 4/14/2006
Response: In its 4/14/2006 report to Congress, "National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and DOT Office of Inspector General (OIG): Open Safety Recommendations on Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety," the DOT wrote: PHMSA has taken acceptable action. NTSB closed recommendation P-03-03 on August 21,2005.

From: NTSB
Date: 8/21/2005
Response: The Safety Board notes that PHMSA recently completed an extensive evaluation of the Office of Pipeline Safety's pipeline operator inspection program and has published the final gas integrity management inspection protocols. In addition, PHMSA has developed a new enforcement tracking system and provided training on internal pipeline corrosion to Federal and State inspectors that perform gas integrity management inspections. Accordingly, Safety Recommendation P-03-3 is classified "Closed--Acceptable Action."

From: RSPA
Date: 5/26/2005
Response: Letter Mail Controlled 6/6/2005 1:51:27 PM MC# 2050240 In an earlier response (8-15-03), PHMSA (RSPA) stated it would request closure of safety recommendation P-03-3 after publishing the final gas integrity management inspection protocols and developing a new enforcement tracking system. PHMSA recently completed these actions, and details of our actions to address this recommendation are provided below. Also included is information on the training that we have provided to inspectors on internal corrosion. Gas Integrity Management Inspection Protocols The gas integrity management inspection protocols are published and a final copy is enclosed for your information. An electronic version can be found on PHMSA's website at These protocols guide inspectors in assessing the adequacy of the process operator's use to determine potential internal corrosion threats. For example, protocol B will allow an inspector to determine whether the operator's baseline assessment plan and its implementation plan is appropriate for the identified internal corrosion threats. While developing the protocols, PHMSA conducted several workshops across the country to ensure that the full range of stakeholder viewpoints was considered. PHMSA also consulted with the National Association of Pipeline Safety Representatives (NAPSR) and with senior Federal and State pipeline safety inspectors. Following the development of the protocols in July and August of 2004, PHMSA conducted a pilot test of inspection requirements using these protocols with four pipeline companies, Duke Energy, El Paso, Pacific Gas & Electric, and Baltimore Gas and Electric. The pilot test provided lessons learned on how the protocols should be implemented and on the actual time it takes inspectors to complete inspections. The protocols were amended as a result of the pilot testing. PHMSA has provided training on the application of the protocols to Federal and State pipeline inspectors that perform gas integrity management program inspections. Safety Monitoring and Reporting Tool (SMART) PHMSA developed a new enforcement tracking system, referred to as the Safety Monitoring and Reporting Tool (SMART), which we are pilot testing. SMART will help inspectors identify internal corrosion problems through better integration of safety information. SMART will be the single repository of pipeline information gathered from several different OPS systems and pipeline operators. SMART will include information on corrosion leaks, the miles of pipe that are either cathodically protected or are unprotected, corrosion inspection results, and the miles of pipe inspected by internal inspection methodology. SMART will provide enhanced analysis of data that will help inspectors identify corrosion threats. It will also help inspectors apply a standardized workflow process that provides consistent application of OPS' policies and best practices to achieve a streamlined enforcement process and improved analytical capability. Pipeline Corrosion and Cathodic Protection Training PHMSA recently developed and distributed Computer Based Training (CBT) programs to all federal and state inspectors. Three of these programs address corrosion. They are, "Fundamentals of Pipeline Corrosion and Cathodic Protection (PL293-CBT2)," "Fundamentals of Basic DC Electricity CBT (PL293-CBT1)," and "Investigating and Managing Internal Corrosion of Pipelines (PL00293-CBTI)." These new CBT courses provide a cost-effective means to encourage on-going training between periods of mandatory class attendance at the Transportation Safety Institute (TSI). Consequently, Federal and State managers can take greater control and responsibility for assuring that their inspectors are adequately trained to identify inadequacies in the operator's internal corrosion programs. The CBT tool also provides inspectors with an evaluation reference guide that helps inspectors ensure that they are adequately assessing internal corrosion during inspections. This guide can also be used when conducting other types of field inspections. A copy of the CBT is enclosed for your information.

From: NTSB
Date: 11/24/2004
Response: Update requested

From: NTSB
Date: 2/28/2004
Response: In its 2/28/2005 report to Congress, "Open Statutory Mandates Regarding Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety," the DOT wrote: This recommendation is addressed by gas integrity management program protocols, inspector training, and new National Association of Corrosion Engineers International standards for internal corrosion. RSPA is preparing a formal response to NTSB.

From: NTSB
Date: 11/21/2003
Response: The Safety Board notes that in early 2004, RSPA expects to complete work to revamp its inspection protocols, and improve its inspection tracking and coordination with its legal office to ensure that violations of its regulations are enforced more effectively. Pending completion of the recommended actions, Safety Recommendation P-03-3 is classified "Open--Acceptable Response."

From: RSPA
Date: 8/15/2003
Response: Letter Mail Controlled 9/3/2003 2:08:46 PM MC# 2030445 In early 2004, we expect to request closure of Recommendation P-03-3 based on our revamped inspection protocols and improved inspection tracking and coordination with our legal office to ensure violations of our regulations are enforced more effectively.