Two US senators have introduced legislation to enhance
pipeline safety in the country. The bill strengthens pipeline
safety oversight by the US federal government and addresses
long-standing safety issues, including the use of automatic
shutoff valves and excess flow valves.
Pipelines transport valuable energy resources to
communities across our nation. While our pipeline system is
largely safe, when accidents occur the consequences can be
catastrophic, said Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), one
of the bills two original co-sponsors. Our
legislation will help to ensure the safety and efficiency of
this vital transportation network. We can prevent deadly
accidents by requiring more advanced technology, increased inspections,
and steeper penalties for safety violations.
Safety should be the bedrock of any responsible
business, said Senator Jay Rockefeller IV (D-WV), the
other original co-sponsor of the legislation. We want to
make sure worker and consumer safety remain a top priority.
This bill will give the US Department of Transportations
Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA)
the tools it needs to provide stronger oversight of our
nations pipeline system. Safety should never take a
backseat to profit.
The US has approximately 2.5 million miles of pipelines that
transport oil, natural
gas and hazardous liquids. These pipelines are an integral
component of the US economy and energy supply, and are
generally considered a safer mode of transportation than other
options for moving gas and liquids.
Since 2006, there have been approximately 40 pipeline
incidents each year that resulted in a fatality or injury. Last
September, a natural-gas pipeline exploded in San Bruno,
California, killing eight people. In January of this year, a
12-in. gas main exploded in a residential neighborhood of
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, killing a gas company employee and
injuring five others. The cause of that blast remains under
The pipeline safety legislation seeks to mitigate pipeline
risks through a number of measures. It would reauthorize and
strengthen the authority of the PHMSA through fiscal year 2014.
Other highlights of the bill include: increased civil penalties
for violators of pipeline regulations; expanded excess flow
valve requirements to include multi-family buildings and small
commercial facilities; required installation of
automatic or remote-controlled shutoff valves on new
transmission pipelines; instructs the US Secretary of
Transportation to establish time limits on accident and leak
notification by pipeline operators to local and state
government officials and emergency responders; requires the US
Secretary of Transportation to evaluate whether integrity
management system requirements should be expanded beyond
currently defined high-consequence areas and establish
regulations as appropriate; makes pipeline information,
inspections, and standards available to the public on the
PHMSAs website; and authorizes additional pipeline
inspectors and pipeline safety support employees through a
phased-in increase over the next four years.