Energy industry officials say they need more than an hour to report oil spills, gas leaks

A bill that would require pipeline operators to report oil spills, gas leaks and other incidents within one hour doesn't provide enough time, energy industry officials said Thursday.

The industry is under scrutiny after a natural gas explosion in California this month that killed seven people and destroyed dozens of homes and a pipeline accident in Michigan in late July that spewed 1 million gallons of crude oil into the Kalamazoo River .

Industry officials also told the House Energy and Commerce Committee's energy subcommittee at a hearing that they want the federal government to force states to eliminate exemptions that allow state and local agencies to do digging work in the vicinity of oil and gas pipelines without notification.

Forty-one states have some kind of notification exemption for state or local government agencies performing excavation work, Association of Oil Pipelines President Anthony Black told the House Energy and Commerce Committee's energy subcommittee.

Federal accident investigators are looking into the possibility that work performed two years ago on a sewer line might have damaged a natural gas pipeline that ruptured in San Bruno, Calif.

The House is expected to vote Friday on a bill that would require pipeline operators to notify the National Response Center within one hour of learning of an incident.

A timeline of the Michigan oil spill shows that Enbridge Inc., the Canadian company that owns the pipeline, began receiving alarms at its control center in Alberta just before 6 p.m. on July 25. The company didn't confirm the oil spill until 11:45 a.m. the next day, and then took nearly two hours to report the spill to the response center.

Stephen J. Wuori, an Enbridge vice president, turned aside questions from lawmakers about the company's delay in reporting the spill, saying that, as a party to the National Transportation Safety Board's investigation of the accident, company officials are prohibited from discussing details of the investigation.

Wuori said Enbridge, the largest pipeline operator in North America, plans to restart the Michigan pipeline involved in the spill on Monday pending approval from the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.