An advocate of more pipeline regulation said this year: "Until there is a rupture nearby and you can smell skin burning, people really don't pay attention." That has been the pattern throughout the history of government oversight of pipelines: explosion, death, reform.
Reform: President Lyndon B. Johnson calls for the first time for federal regulation of pipelines. In 1968, Congress passes the National Gas Pipeline Safety Act, which authorizes federal oversight and mandates the first minimum safety standards.
Reform: This accident and others spurred the nationwide spread of One Call systems, so that excavators can call a hotline before they dig.
Deaths: Two 10-year-old boys and an 18-year-old man.
Reform: In 2003, a federal judge ordered that $4 million of the criminal fines imposed as a result of the Bellingham disaster be used to fund a nonprofit, the Pipeline Safety Trust. The trust, located in Bellingham, has become the leading advocacy group for better pipeline regulation.
Reform: This accident led Congress, in 2002, to require pipeline companies to track the conditions of their pipes after they are put in the ground. This mandate, known as "integrity management," applies only to the 7 percent of transmission gas pipelines that are in highly populated areas.