Bipartisan Pipeline Safety Bill Passes Committee

SAFE PIPES Act Would Reauthorize PHMSA Through 2019

December 9, 2015

WASHINGTON – This afternoon, U.S. Senators Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Steve Daines (R-Mont.), and Gary Peters (D-Mich.) applauded the Commerce Committee’s passage of bipartisan legislation to help ensure the safety of America’s pipeline network. The bill, known as the Securing America’s Future Energy: Protecting Infrastructure of Pipelines and Enhancing Safety (SAFE PIPES) Act, would reauthorize the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) through fiscal year (FY) 2019.
Senator Fischer, chairman of the Senate Surface Transportation Subcommittee, released the following statement:
“Today’s passage of the SAFE PIPES Act out of the Commerce committee is a positive step on the way to ensuring the safety of our national pipeline infrastructure network. America’s pipelines transport liquid fuel and gas to homes, communities, critical energy and transportation infrastructure, and our military bases. Congress must provide aggressive oversight of pipeline safety, and I look forward to supporting this bipartisan, pro-safety legislation to reauthorize PHMSA on the Senate floor.”
Senator Booker, ranking member on the Senate Surface Transportation Subcommittee, released the following statement:
“Today marks a promising step forward in our efforts to prioritize pipeline safety. America’s existing pipeline infrastructure is an important part of our national energy transportation network. In New Jersey, close to thirty-five thousand miles of gas pipelines connect residents and their energy needs. The SAFE PIPES Act will implement important oversight and accountability measures, encourage the use of new technology, and help ensure safer communities in New Jersey and around the country. I’m pleased to have worked with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to secure its passage out of Committee today.”
Senator Daines released the following statement:
“The SAFE PIPES Act is an important step forward to improve the protection of pipeline river crossings, fill vacant inspector positions and facilitate communication between PHMSA and state agencies. This is a strong, bipartisan bill that will enhance pipeline safety, promote economic opportunity and help protect our environment. I appreciate Senators Fischer, Booker and Peters for working with me on this important legislation.”
Senator Peters released the following statement:
“It’s taken five years and nearly $1 billion to clean up the last oil spill from a pipeline break in Michigan, and a similar spill in the Great Lakes would be devastating to our economy, environment and drinking water supply. I’m proud to work with my Commerce Committee colleagues as we move forward with bipartisan legislation that will strengthen the safety of our nation’s pipelines and protect our communities and natural resources from the threat of a pipeline break.”
The SAFE PIPES Act would reauthorize PHMSA from FY 2016 through FY 2019. Key provisions of the bill include:
·         Re-prioritizing and requiring PHMSA to complete outstanding mandates from the 2011 reauthorization bill.
·         Requiring PHMSA to prioritize statutory requirements for rulemaking over new rulemaking.
·         Requesting that PHMSA conduct an assessment of inspections process and Integrity Management programs for natural gas and liquid pipelines.
·         Encouraging PHMSA to investigate and report on advanced mapping technologies for pipeline networks.
·         Providing direct hire authority to the agency so PHMSA can address its staffing challenges.
·         Calling for minimum standards to ensure the safety of natural gas storage facilities.
·         Ensuring coordination and collaboration on research, development, and technology between PHMSA, industry, and public sector stakeholders.
Before introducing the SAFE PIPES Act, Senator Fischer convened two important hearings of the Senate’s Surface Transportation Subcommittee to examine PHMSA and the security of our nation’s pipeline network. On September 18, 2015, Senator Fischer convened a field hearing of the subcommittee with Senator Daines in Billings, Montana. The subcommittee heard from various stakeholders on ways to ensure the stability and efficiency of pipelines in this country.
On September 29, 2015, the subcommittee looked at the transportation of natural gas. The hearing featured testimony from Christopher Hart, chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board; Susan Fleming, director of physical infrastructure at the Government Accountability Office, and representatives from both pipeline inspections technology and pipeline operators.
Click here to view the text of the SAFE PIPES Act and here for the amendments.