Committee Leaders Commend Passage of Pipeline Safety Legislation

Dec 22, 2020
In The News

Written by Justin Harclerode
Published by Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure

U.S. Sens. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., and Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., chairman and ranking member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, and Sens. Deb Fischer, R-Neb., and Tammy Duckworth, D- Ill., chairman and ranking member of the Subcommittee on Transportation and Safety, along with Reps. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., and Sam Graves, R-Mo., chairman and ranking member of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, and Reps. Frank Pallone, D-N.J., and Greg Walden, R-Ore., chairman and ranking member of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, and Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., ranking member of the Subcommittee on Energy, today released the following statements upon passage of the Protecting Our Infrastructure of Pipelines Enhancing Safety (PIPES) Act of 2020, included in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021. The legislation will reauthorize the U.S. Department of Transportation Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) pipeline safety program through fiscal year 2023 and provides important advances in new safety technology and regulatory reform. 

Senate Commerce Committee Leaders:

“A reliable supply of energy is essential to keeping our businesses, communities, and homes running,” said Wicker. “The PIPES Act will improve our pipeline system by advancing innovative safety programs and technologies. I thank my Senate colleagues and House counterparts for working together on this legislation, and I applaud Senators Fischer and Duckworth on a strong bipartisan bill.”

“The PIPES Act will measurably improve critical protections against major safety hazards,” said Cantwell. “This legislation also ensures that the latest technology will be used to detect and prevent costly methane leaks, which is especially important because methane leaks are a significant hazard and a major contributor to global warming.”

“Pipelines are a critical component of the U.S. energy network,” said Fischer. “As chair of the Senate Transportation and Safety Subcommittee, I was glad to work with Ranking Member Duckworth as well as Senate Commerce Committee chair and ranking members Senators Wicker and Cantwell on my PIPES Act of 2020 included in this funding package. This bill examines ways to improve pipeline safety with innovative technologies, updates and enhances safety regulations, and ensures that PHMSA has the resources and congressional direction it needs to create a safer pipeline network across the country.”

“Pipelines carry much of the energy that powers our nation, and helping ensure the safe transportation of that energy is critical for homeowners and businesses across Illinois and our nation,” said Duckworth. “I am thankful for Senator Fischer’s partnership throughout this process and am glad to see this important bipartisan legislation head to the President’s desk to be signed into law so that we can reauthorize PHMSA’s pipeline safety programs and invest in emerging technologies that will make the operation of pipelines even safer and more efficient.”

House Transportation and Infrastructure Leaders:

“This bipartisan and bicameral legislation will help ensure that the millions of miles of pipelines in the U.S. are safe, reliable, and environmentally-sound. I’m especially proud of the provisions that help combat climate change by mandating that companies conduct leak detection and repair programs in order to reduce methane pollution, a greenhouse gas 84 times more potent than carbon dioxide,” said DeFazio. “I am also pleased the bill contains significant safety improvements for LNG facilities, gas distribution systems, and more pipeline inspectors, while also rejecting giveaways to industry. Finally, the bill will resolve the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration’s bureaucratic inability to protect coastal waters and the Great Lakes as previously mandated by Congress.”

“This is a much-needed, long-overdue reauthorization of the DOT’s pipeline safety program,” said Graves. “I want to thank all my colleagues in the House and Senate for coming together to get this bill done before this Congress concludes, and I particularly want to thank Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials Subcommittee Ranking Member Rick Crawford (R-AR) for introducing his consensus-driven pipeline safety bill last year. Many of the provisions included in today’s bill are derived from the bipartisan work Ranking Member Crawford and others did in putting together his commonsense bill, the Pipeline Safety Improvement Act. 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.”

House Energy and Commerce Leaders:

“Despite making significant progress over the last 20 years, our nation’s pipelines are still far too prone to safety issues, oil spills, and gas leaks,” said Pallone. “This legislation is a sensible step in the right direction. It protects our communities by making our pipelines safer, helps us combat climate change by mandating the repair of methane leaks, and rebalances PHMSA’s prescriptive cost benefit analysis to factor in environmental and safety benefits. This final agreement is due to the hard work and leadership of our bicameral, bipartisan committee leaders, especially Energy Subcommittee Chairman Bobby Rush, and I thank them all for their commitment to getting this legislation across the finish line.”

“The safe operation of our nation’s pipeline system is vital to our economy, our national security, and our energy security. Now more than ever with the COVID-19 pandemic, Americans depend on pipelines every day to deliver fuels for essential uses, such as electricity generation, heating, and cooking, and the PIPES Act will ensure our pipelines remain safe and secure. We are proud to have worked with our colleagues on a bicameral compromise to reauthorize the PIPES Act and are pleased to push this across the finish line this year,” said Walden and Upton.

Among other things, the bicameral, bipartisan agreement will:

  • Provide greater resources to state and local pipeline safety officials and increases the number of pipeline inspectors by almost 20 percent; 
  • Allow PHMSA to conduct pilot programs to evaluate innovative pipeline safety technologies;
  • Provide greater Congressional oversight and additional resources to eliminate the backlog of PHMSA rulemakings;
  • Define coastal beaches and coastal waters to ensure completion of an outstanding congressional mandate;
  • Improve due process protections and transparency in PHMSA enforcement proceedings;
  • Direct PHMSA to update its current regulations for large-scale liquefied natural gas (LNG) facilities and sets a higher maximum penalty for violating the updated regulations;
  • Establish an LNG Center of Excellence to promote and facilitate safety and technological advancements for LNG operations;
  • Direct the Secretary of Transportation to promulgate regulations to require natural gas pipeline operators to take on advanced leak detection and repair programs;
  • Require updates to inspection and maintenance plans for covered pipeline operators to identify ways to minimize leaks and require PHMSA to study ways of updating regulations to minimize natural gas releases;
  • Improve statutory protections for whistleblowers;
  • Respond to the National Transportation Safety Board’s recommendations by asking the National Academy of Sciences to study potential standards for installing automatic or remote-controlled shut-off valves on existing pipelines;
  • Require the Secretary of Transportation to study methods, other than direct assessment, to asses distribution pipeline integrity; and
  • Update relevant regulations for distribution operators in order to prepare for and address certain risks, such as those posed by cast iron pipes and low pressure systems.
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