Transmission pipelines deliver natural gas to consumers around the world for the production of heat, electricity, and organic chemicals. In the United States, 2.56 million miles (4.12 million km) of pipelines carry natural gas to more than 75 million customers. With the benefits of pipelines come the risks to health and property posed by leaks and explosions. Proposals for new and recommissioned pipelines challenge host communities with uncertainty and difficult decisions about risk management. The appropriate community response depends on the risk level, the potential cost, and the prospect for compensation in the event of an incident. This article provides information on the risks and expected costs of pipeline leaks and explosions in the United States, including the incident rates, risk factors, and magnitude of harm. Although aggregated data on pipeline incidents are available, broadly inclusive data do not serve the needs of communities that must make critical decisions about hosting a pipeline for natural gas transmission. This article breaks down the data relevant to such communities and omits incidents that occurred offshore or as part of gas gathering or local distribution. The article then explains possible approaches to risk management relevant to communities, pipeline companies, and policymakers.
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