WASHINGTON, D.C.—The U.S. Senate has unanimously approved pipeline safety legislation introduced by Chairman John D. (Jay) Rockefeller IV and Surface Transportation Subcommittee Chairman Frank R. Lautenberg. The Pipeline Transportation Safety Improvement Act of 2011 would strengthen pipeline safety oversight by the federal government and address long-standing safety issues.
“Safety is good for business and a necessity for the American public when there is the potential for life and death accidents. That is why I am glad the Senate was able to pass comprehensive pipeline safety legislation today,” Rockefeller said. “Over 2.5 million miles of pipeline crisscross America transporting the resources that power our lives and advance our economic success. But this generally safe system has been questioned because of recent accidents that underscore the importance of making safety a chief priority. This bill will improve the integrity of our pipeline transportation system and will help prevent accidents from happening in the future.”
“This is a huge step forward for the safety of pipelines and communities across the nation,” said Lautenberg. “This bill strengthens oversight and addresses long-standing safety issues that leave the public vulnerable to catastrophic pipeline accidents. We must do everything we can to ensure that pipelines don’t present a hazard to the very communities they serve.”
The United States has approximately 2.3 million miles of pipelines that transport oil, natural gas, and hazardous liquids. These pipelines are an integral component of the U.S. economy and energy supply, and are considered a safer mode of transportation than other options for moving gas and liquids. However, since 2006, there have been approximately 40 serious pipeline incidents each year that resulted in a fatality or injury.
The legislation introduced by Senators Rockefeller and Lautenberg, and approved today by the Senate, would help mitigate pipeline risks through a number of measures. It must now be passed by the House of Representatives before being signed into law by the President.
The legislation would reauthorize and strengthen the authority of the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) through fiscal year 2015. Specifically, the Pipeline Transportation Safety Improvement Act of 2011 includes provisions that would:
- Increase civil penalties for violators or pipeline regulations and add civil penalties for obstructing investigations;
- Expand excess flow valve requirements to include multi-family buildings and small commercial facilities;
- Eliminate exemptions and require all local and state government agencies, and their contractors, to notify “One-Call” notification centers before digging;
- Require the installation of automatic or remote-controlled shut-off valves on new transmission pipelines;
- Require the Secretary of Transportation to evaluate whether integrity management system requirements should be expanded beyond currently defined high consequence areas and establish regulations as appropriate;
- Make pipeline information, inspections, and standards available to the public on the PHMSA’s website;
- Authorize additional pipeline inspectors and pipeline safety support employees, through a phased-in increase over the next four years; and
- Authorize appropriations for PHMSA for fiscal years 2012 through 2015.