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The purpose of the Ordinance on Protection against Major Accidents (OMA) is to protect the public and the environment from serious damage that can arise from major accidents with chemical risk potential, such as the extensive fire in 1986 at Schweizerhalle. The inclusion of pipeline installations (high-pressure natural gas and oil pipelines) in the Ordinance on Protection against Major Accidents provides for the risks of these to be quantified and classified according to their importance, and reduced using purposeful measures (see box). The Federal Offices for the Environment FOEN and of Energy SFOE are now cooperating with the natural gas and oil industries to assess the risks of the entire pipeline network (see box). The purpose of this work is to reduce the greatest risks by the year 2018 at the latest.
Better coordination of regional planning and accident prevention
Furthermore, the revised Ordinance improves the coordination of regional planning and accident prevention to ensure that the risks in the neighbourhood of installations covered by the Ordinance on Protection against Major Accidents do not continue to rise. As a result, the motion submitted by the Kommission für Rechtsfragen of the Council of States (04.3664) of 2004 is now answered. The motion demanded fuller coordination between regional planning and environmental protection.
During the Hearing, which was held between 1 February 2012 and 7 May 2012, mainly positive responses were received. On 13 February 2013, the Federal Council put the revised Ordinance on Protection against Major Accidents with effect from 1 April 2013 into force.
Approximately 2 200 km of high-pressure natural gas and some 200 km of oil pipelines run through Switzerland. With high-pressure natural gas pipelines, the public is subject to risk through heat radiation that can arise as a result of damage to a pipeline when gas escapes and ignites. Higher risks may arise particularly in densely settled areas.
With oil pipelines, the main risk is from the pollution of surface and groundwater through the escape of heating and motor fuels.
In cooperation with the natural gas and petroleum industries, the authorities have commenced work on risk assessment.
In addition to the high-pressure natural gas pipelines, Switzerland disposes of a low-pressure gas pipeline network having a length of some 15 000 km that supplies the residential areas. This network is not subject to Federal supervision, and it is not intended to include it in the Ordinance on Protection against Major Accidents.