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Frequently Asked Questions

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, pipelines are by far the safest way to transport petroleum products and are recognized as the most economical way of distributing vast quantities of energy from production fields to consumers. In fact, from 1991 to 2004, the number of incidents on natural gas distribution pipelines decreased by more than 25 percent, yet the amount of natural gas traveling through the delivery system increased by 30 percent, and an additional 650,000 miles of pipeline were added to the system.

One of the first indications of a leak may be the odor of the escaping gas. As you may know, an odorant has been added to natural gas by pipeline companies because when in its native state, natural gas is an odorless gas. Therefore, a strange or unusual smell in the area near a pipeline may indicate a leak.

Remember in its native state natural gas is odorless so a pipeline leak may be indicated also by a hissing or roaring sound, the loudness of which would vary with the size of the leak and the pressure of the pipeline.

Depending on the temperature conditions, natural gas, when released from a pipeline, may be seen as a white cloud originating near the pipeline location. A spot of dead or discolored vegetation in an otherwise green area might indicate a small leak.

If you have gas service and detect a natural gas odor coming from inside your home, leave the area. Call your local gas company. Do not use a phone within your home if you detect a natural gas odor.

Since pipelines are buried underground, pipeline companies use line markers like those shown to the right. The markers indicate the approximate location of the pipeline. Markers are placed where pipelines intersect streets, railroads, rivers and heavily congested areas. Markers identify the pipeline operator and show a 24-hour emergency telephone number where the operator can be reached. The marker will state the material that is being transported within the pipeline.

Markers indicate the general, not exact, location of a pipeline. Markers do not indicate how deep the pipeline is buried. Nor do they necessarily indicate how many lines are in the area. And, pipelines do not necessarily follow a straight course between two markers. Never rely solely on the presence or absence of pipeline markers. Always call your state’s One-Call notification service before digging.

Pipeline markers are important to public safety. It is a federal crime for any person to willfully deface, damage, remove, or destroy any pipeline sign or right-of-way marker required by federal law.

A pipeline right-of-way is the strip of land over a pipeline. A right-of-way agreement between pipeline companies and property owners is called an easement. Easements provide pipeline companies with permanent, limited interest to the land to enable us to operate, test, inspect, maintain and protect our pipelines. Although agreements may vary, pipeline companies’ rights-of-way generally extend 25 feet from each side of the pipeline unless specified otherwise.

Pipeline rights-of-way must be kept free from structures and other obstructions. If a pipeline crosses your property, please do not plant trees or high shrubs on the right-of-way. Also, do not dig, store, or place anything on or near the right-of-way without first having pipeline company personnel mark the pipeline, stake the right-of-way and explain the company’s construction guidelines to you.

Pipeline company personnel regularly inspect their pipeline rights-of-way using air, foot and vehicle patrols. The inspectors look for potential danger to pipelines, such as construction activity, and check for signs of gas leaks.