Pipeline Safety

About the Pipeline Safety Program

The commission is responsible for developing and enforcing safety standards for natural gas and hazardous liquid pipelines located within the state. The commission also inspects the portions of interstate natural gas and hazardous liquid pipelines located within Washington state; the standards and enforcement actions are the responsibility of the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA).

Washington State Pipelines

There are 39 pipeline operators in Washington operating over 47,000 miles of pipelines. 29 of the pipelines carry natural gas and 10 carry hazardous liquids such as gasoline and jet fuel. There are 11 interstate pipelines in Washington - six carry liquid and five carry natural gas. Interstate lines typically are large-diameter lines operating at very high pressure.

The commission also regulates a liquefied natural gas facility, propane storage sites, and natural gas master meters. Master meters are small natural gas distribution systems operated by schools, hospitals, or by residential complexes such as apartment buildings and mobile home parks.

Mission Statement

The mission of the Pipeline Safety Program is to ensure public health, safety, and environmental quality by:

  • Conducting quality inspections of hazardous liquid and natural gas pipeline companies
  • Improving safety laws and regulations
  • Educating local communities on pipeline safety issues
  • Providing technical assistance to pipeline operators, local governments and communities, and
  • Enforcing laws and regulations in a fair & equitable manner

Program History

The pipeline safety program began inspecting natural gas systems operating within the state of Washington in 1955. Intrastate hazardous liquid pipelines were added to UTC's authority in 1996.

In 2000, the Legislature approved the Pipeline Safety Act - HB 2420 (.pdf) directing the program to seek federal approval to include inspections of all interstate pipelines. In 2001, the Legislature adopted the Pipeline Safety Funding Bill - SB 5182 (.pdf)

In 2003, after working closely with the U.S. Department of Transportation, Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) for two years, the pipeline safety program became the lead inspector for all interstate pipeline inspections and incidents within the state of Washington. The UTC can make recommendations to PHMSA but does not have enforcement authority over interstate pipelines.

The program is supported through a combination of federal grants and pipeline fees. 

Program Organization

The pipeline safety director manages the pipeline safety program. The chief pipeline safety engineer directs all compliance activities by the program’s eight pipeline inspectors. The operations manager oversees administrative support functions, budget work, and program policies development and management, and the program’s damage prevention efforts.

There is diversity among the inspectors from engineers to inspectors with extensive work experience with pipeline companies. All inspectors are federally certified, having completed training in all federal and state pipeline safety regulations, as well as advanced investigator training.

Pipeline Fees

The pipeline safety program is funded through a combination of federal base grants from the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), and pipeline company fees established by the commission. 

In accordance with state laws and commission rules, WAC 480-75-240 and WAC 480-93-240, company fees are allotted among gas and hazardous liquid pipeline companies based on the total pipeline miles reported each year to the commission.  The remaining program overhead costs are assigned to the company using an effort-based allocation system.  The program requires staff to track all hours that are spent directly with the specific pipeline company and allocates fees based on each company’s percentage of hours worked.

Pipeline fees are determined each year before Sept. 1.

Pipeline Safety Contacts

Director, Scott Rukke, scott.rukke@utc.wa.gov, (360) 870-4923

Chief Engineer, Dennis Ritter, dennis.ritter@utc.wa.gov, (360) 402-0066

Operations Manager, Marina Rathbun, marina.rathbun@utc.wa.gov, (360) 664-1135

UTC Pipeline Safety Program

Phone - (360) 664-1160
Email - pipelinesafety@utc.wa.gov

The UTC’s offices are at 621 Woodland Square Loop SE, Lacey, Washington.  Map and Directions


Reports and Studies

Pipeline Siting in Washington

Citizens Committee on Pipeline Safety