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T&I Republicans Introduce Commonsense Pipeline Safety Reauthorization

Washington, D.C., November 19, 2019 | Justin Harclerode (202) 225-9446 | comments
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Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Republican leaders today introduced legislation to reauthorize federal pipeline safety programs, which expired at the end of September.  The bill will improve pipeline safety, foster collaboration between government and stakeholders, harness innovation and technology, and reduce regulatory burdens.

The Pipeline Safety Improvement Act of 2019 (H.R. 5175) reauthorizes the Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) for four years and includes a number of provisions that were conceived in a bipartisan manner.  The legislation was introduced by Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials Subcommittee Ranking Member Rick Crawford (R-AR) and Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Ranking Member Sam Graves (R-MO). 

“This bill shows the continuing commitment of T&I Republicans to provide a safe pipeline network to the American people,” said Crawford.  “This commonsense legislation focuses on the T&I Committee’s proper role of safety, not environmental regulations.  While the Majority has chosen to mark up a partisan bill that fails to address the most pressing needs of the United States, I remain hopeful that they will return to our negotiated agreement that this legislation is derived from.”

“Pipelines remain one of the safest ways to transport sensitive but vital energy resources around our country.  Congress has a chance to strengthen DOT’s pipeline safety policies, but every day we fail to do that closes our window of opportunity a little bit further.  This bill will strengthen pipeline safety efforts in the United States and provide reasonable regulatory improvements for the safer, more efficient transportation of energy products,” said Graves.  “Our Committee’s roadmap for success has always been working together to pass good, bipartisan bills and Committee Republicans remain ready to work across the aisle to get a bill done that can gain broad bipartisan support.”

The legislation is also supported by a coalition of stakeholders responsible for the safe transportation of energy products by pipeline – the American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers, the American Gas Association, the American Petroleum Institute, the American Public Gas Association, the Association of Oil Pipe Lines, the GPA Midstream Association, and the Interstate Natural Gas Association of America. 

In a statement to Reps. Graves and Crawford, they said, “Unfortunately, many of the proposals made to improve pipeline safety were left out of H.R. 5120, the bill the Committee will mark up.  The bill you introduced, the Pipeline Safety Improvement Act of 2019, contains more provisions that will improve pipeline safety, such as promoting voluntary information sharing, piloting new safety technologies, and modernizing the class location change program.”

Highlights of the Pipeline Safety Improvement Act of 2019:

Improves Safety

  • Fully authorizes PHMSA’s pipeline safety program for 4 years.
  • Creates new PHMSA regulatory authority for inspection and maintenance of ‘idled’ pipeline operating status.
  • Prohibits three overt actions that jeopardize safety with catastrophic outcomes: unauthorized turning of a valve; puncturing of a pipe, pump, or valve; and causing a defect to a pipe, pump, or valve. This language protects First Amendment rights to free speech and assembly.
  • Creates a division of Liquefied Natural Gas Facility Safety within PHMSA’s Office of Pipeline Safety to ensure safety and oversight of LNG facilities.
  • Increases PHMSA staffing levels to hire additional subject matter experts and attorneys with safety expertise.

    Fosters Collaboration

  • Creates a confidential, non-punitive Voluntary Information-Sharing (VIS) program to encourage collaborative efforts to improve inspection information feedback and information-sharing on best practices, processes, and technology deployments.

    Harnesses Innovation and Technology

  • Creates a safety-enhancing testing program for innovative technologies and operational practices. The technology pilot will provide field testing for promising new safety technologies.
  • Requires PHMSA to inform Congress of resources needed to create a national integrated pipeline safety database to have a clearer picture of federal and state safety oversight efforts.
  • Leverages geospatial mapping technology to improve safety.
  • Provides PHMSA more flexibility in setting its research and development agenda.

    Reduces Regulatory Burdens

  • Updates obsolete regulations on class location to promote effective, efficient safety management.
  • Permits use of integrity management program requirements to manage the safety of gas transmission pipeline segments that experience a change in class location.   

    Click here to read the text of the Pipeline Safety Improvement Act of 2019.

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