WASHINGTON, D.C.—Senator John D. (Jay) Rockefeller IV (D-W.Va.), Chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, and Senator Frank R. Lautenberg (D-N.J.), Chairman of the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Surface Transportation and Merchant Marine Infrastructure, Safety, and Security, today urged their colleagues to support legislation to strengthen pipeline safety oversight. Their call for quick legislative action comes on the heels of the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) Secretary Ray LaHood’s launch of a national pipeline safety initiative. The launch of DOT’s pipeline safety action plan dovetails with legislation re-introduced earlier this year by Senators Rockefeller and Lautenberg to address long-standing safety issues in America’s pipeline network.
“Each pipeline incident we’ve seen over the past year underlines how safety should be our chief priority,” Rockefeller said. “The DOT action plan launched today is an important step toward improving the safety and reliability of America’s pipeline network. It addresses many of my long-standing concerns and incorporates recommendations included in our pipeline safety bill. My teammate on this issue, Senator Lautenberg, and I are also working in Congress to pass this legislation and provide stronger oversight of our nation’s pipeline system. I urge my colleagues to support our pipeline safety legislation. Safety should never take a backseat to profit.”
"I am pleased to have the strong partnership of Secretary LaHood as we work to improve pipeline safety. We are moving legislation in the Senate that would strengthen oversight and address long-standing safety issues that leave the public vulnerable to pipeline accidents. Our nation's pipelines transport valuable energy resources across the country, and we must do everything we can to ensure that pipelines don't present a hazard to the very communities they serve," Lautenberg said.
Last week, Chairman Rockefeller announced that the Commerce Committee will hold an executive session on April 12, 2011 at 2:30 p.m., in 253 Russell Senate Office Building to consider a list of legislation and nominations. The list includes Senators Rockefeller and Lautenberg’s Pipeline Transportation Safety Improvement Act of 2011.
The legislation will help mitigate pipeline risks by reauthorizing and strengthening DOT’S Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) through fiscal year 2014.
Specifically, the Pipeline Transportation Safety Improvement Act of 2011 includes provisions that would:
- Increase civil penalties for violators of 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 establish time limits on accident and leak notification by pipeline operators to local and state government officials and emergency responders;
- 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 web site;
- Authorize additional pipeline inspectors and pipeline safety support employees, through a phased-in increase over the next four years;
- Allow PHMSA to recover costs for oversight of major pipeline design and construction projects; and
- Authorize appropriations for PHMSA for fiscal years 2011 through 2014.