Lautenberg, Rockefeller Introduce Pipeline Safety Act

September 28, 2010

Pipeline SafetyWASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ), Chairman of the Commerce, Science and Transportation Subcommittee on Surface Transportation, and U.S. Senator John D. (Jay) Rockefeller IV (D-WV), Chairman of the Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, today introduced legislation to enhance pipeline safety efforts nationwide. The bill strengthens pipeline safety oversight by the federal government and addresses long-standing safety issues, including the use of automatic shutoff valves—which could have reduced the extent of damage caused in the San Bruno, California explosion.

“Our nation’s 2 million miles of pipelines are a vital part of America’s infrastructure, but when accidents like the San Bruno tragedy occur, the consequences can be devastating,” said Senator Lautenberg, who chaired a hearing of the Subcommittee on Surface Transportation to examine pipeline safety issues today. “Our legislation would strengthen the federal government's oversight of the nation's pipelines and require more inspections, steeper penalties for violations, and more advanced safety technology to prevent such tragedies.”

“Safety must be the bedrock of any responsible business if we are going to keep the American workforce strong and thriving,” Chairman Rockefeller said. “While the pipeline transportation industry is statistically a safe way to transport goods compared to other modes of transportation, this means little to the families of those killed and injured by the devastating San Bruno explosion, or the American lives affected by the massive oil pipeline rupture in Michigan this summer. That is why I've teamed up with Senator Lautenberg to introduce pipeline safety legislation - because we must make sure worker safety is always a top priority. The Pipeline Transportation Safety Improvement Act of 2010 will reauthorize the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration through 2014, but most importantly, we have worked over the past months to ensure this legislation addresses longstanding safety and accountability issues regarding pipeline safety for generations to come. I urge my colleagues to pass our pipeline safety legislation in short order because safety must never take a backseat to profit.”

The legislation would reauthorize and strengthen the authority of the Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) through fiscal year 2014. Specifically, the “Pipeline Transportation Safety Improvement Act of 2010” (PTSI Act) 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 large pipeline design and construction projects; and
  • Authorize appropriations for PHMSA for fiscal years 2011 through 2014.