Since at least 2001, federal law has prohibited public disclosure of exact locations of pipelines carrying hazardous, flammable and explosive substances. The idea was to keep such locations out of the hands of terrorists.
There were also collateral unintended consequences, such as public safety agencies not being provided detailed pipeline information, even though they are entitled to it. This is what happened in the San Bruno explosion.
There is, in fact, some public information available about pipelines, many of which crisscross Richmond. You can access it at https://www.npms.phmsa.dot.gov/PublicViewer/ through the National Pipeline Mapping System (NPMS), a geographic information system (GIS) created by the U.S. Department of Transportation, Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), Office of Pipeline Safety (OPS) in cooperation with other federal and state governmental agencies and the pipeline industry. The NPMS consists of geospatial data, attribute data, public contact information, and metadata pertaining to the interstate and intrastate hazardous liquid trunklines and hazardous liquid low-stress lines as well as gas transmission pipelines, liquefied natural gas (LNG) plants, and hazardous liquid breakout tanks jurisdictional to PHMSA.
The nominal accuracy of geospatial data in the NPMS is +/-500 feet.
If you are a terrorist, you don’t have guess within 500 feet where your target pipeline is. All you have to do is open your eyes.
The location of large gasoline and other fuel pipelines along Cutting and Canal Boulevards are marked so well you can’t miss them. They are spray painted on the streets, signed and flagged. There are even labels pasted on the sidewalks.
In Boston, they have the Freedom Trail, which is clearly marked along sidewalks and streets connecting such landmarks as the Old North Church and the Bunker Hill Monument. It’s a great tourist attraction. In Richmond, we are missing a bet. We could have the now clearly marked Flammable Trail, conveniently accessible in your neighborhood connecting refineries, tank farms and railroad yards. Please forward this to the Richmond Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Your Homeland Security Agency at work protecting you.