Independent Pipeline Safety Trust Funded

SAFE Bellingham
For Immediate Release 6/18/03

"I was in the courtroom today sitting with the parents who lost their children four years ago in the Olympic Pipeline explosion, and let me say that today U.S. District Judge Barbara Rothstein did much more than just sentence three Olympic Pipeline Company workers to jail and community service" said Carl Weimer of SAFE Bellingham.

"For the first time in pipeline history individual corporate employees were held responsible for the decisions they made that led to a terrible pipeline disaster ." Over and over again Judge Rothstein stressed that corporations need to be held responsible, and that since corporations are made up of individuals ultimately the individuals need to be held responsible also. Judge Rothstein took every opportunity to stress that today's sentences and fines were set not only as punishment to the employees and these particular companies, but also as a message to the entire pipeline industry that they can be held responsible.

In what hopefully will turn out to be the most proactive tragedy prevention measure that was part of this plea agreement, Judge Rothstein ordered that $4 million dollars of the fine money be awarded to an independent Pipeline Safety Trust. The purpose of the Trust is to provide independent review and analysis of pipeline safety measures taken by pipeline companies, pipeline regulators, and proposed pipeline legislation. The trust will also serve as a clearinghouse for communities throughout the nation looking for accurate and independent information about pipeline safety issues.

The Trust came into being based on the efforts and recommendations of the families of Liam Wood and Stephen Tsiorvas who were killed in the 1999 explosion. Their idea for the need for such a Pipeline Safety Trust gained written support from Washington Governor Gary Locke, the Washington State Utilities and Transportation Commission, the Washington State Citizens Committee on Pipeline Safety, the Washington City and County Pipeline Safety Consortium, the Bellingham City Council, and the Whatcom County Council.

With only $4 million dollars Judge Rothstein noted that the Trust was like "Bambi taking on Godzilla," but she chided the pipeline industry to listen to and work with the Trust so tragedies like Bellingham do not happen again.

We at SAFE Bellingham would like to thank Judge Rothstein and the many people within the Department of Justice who reviewed boxes and boxes of information, came to accurate conclusions, and then held firm in their conviction that this tragedy should not have happened and someone needed to be held responsible. "Judge Rothstein and these prosecutors for the Department of Justice give government a good name" Weimer said.

"We also hope that the pipeline industry will take Judge Rothstein's suggestion that they work with the new Pipeline Safety Trust to ensure pipeline safety nationwide" Weimer concluded.

Copyright SAFE Billingham

For more information contact: Carl Weimer, Exec. Director SAFE Billingham (360) 815-4712

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