Chairman Rockefeller Remarks on Pipeline Safety: Assessing the San Bruno, California Explosion and Other Recent Accidents

September 28, 2010

Chairman RockefellerWASHINGTON, D.C.— Let me be clear: I believe safety should be the bedrock of any responsible industry. This goes for all companies, big or small, from the coal fields of West Virginia, to the manufacturers of automobiles. Whether you are a worker in a coal mine or live near a pipeline, we must do all that we can to make our industries as safe as possible. And safety must never take a backseat to profit.

This Committee has held a number of safety-related hearings this past year. We’ve taken a hard look at motor vehicles and motor carriers, the Gulf Coast oil spill and aviation. Today, we will examine pipeline safety.

Statistically, pipeline transportation is a relatively safe way to transport goods compared to other modes of transportation. But these statistics mean little to the families of those killed and injured by the San Bruno explosion. The explosion – and resulting fire – killed seven people, injured dozens more, and destroyed the homes of at least 37 families. The San Bruno explosion, and the Michigan pipeline rupture that happened over the summer, are stark reminders that more needs to be done on pipeline safety.

That’s why Senator Lautenberg and I have teamed up to introduce the Pipeline Transportation Safety Improvement Act of 2010. This important bill, which we introduced today, will give the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration the tools it needs to provide stronger oversight of our nation’s pipeline system.

The bill goes a long way toward requiring the use of excess flow valves in multi-family buildings and commercial facilities, mandating the use of remote controlled and automatic shut-off valves, removing exemptions from one-call requirements, and providing useful and timely information to the public to provide greater awareness of pipeline locations and inspection activities.

I want to thank Senator Lautenberg for his leadership on this important issue and I look forward to working with him and my other colleagues on the Committee to pass this critically important pipeline safety legislation. I also want to thank today’s witnesses for being here today. I look forward to hearing from them what steps they believe we must take to prevent tragedies, like the tragedy at San Bruno, from ever happening again.