Obama signs pipeline safety reauthorization bill

US President Barack Obama signed the pipeline safety reauthorization bill into law on Jan. 3. The law, which was developed in the wake of some significant oil and gas pipeline accidents, will not only help keep communities safer, but also provide operators regulatory certainty to run their systems more effectively, US Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said following the president’s action.

The law gives the US Pipeline and Hazardous Safety Administration stronger enforcement tools and increases civil penalties for pipeline operators who do not meet safety regulations, LaHood said in a posting at his blog at the US Department of Transportation web site. It doubles the maximum fines that pipeline operators face for safety violations, and requires PHMSA to issue new pipeline safety standards requiring operators to install automatic or remote-controlled shut-off valves and excess flow valves in new or replaced transmission pipelines, he said.

It also authorizes additional PHMSA inspectors to support its investigation and enforcement operations, and $110 million/year in safety related grants for state damage prevention programs, technical assistance to local communities, emergency response training, and one-call system improvements, according to the secretary.

“To promote regulatory certainty for the pipeline industry, the new bill prohibits PHMSA during a 2-3 year congressional review period, from issuing regulations establishing leak-detection requirements or expanding integrity management requirements beyond high-consequence areas,” he said. “However, this restriction would not apply if a condition poses any risk to public safety, property, or the environment.”

The Association of Oil Pipelines, Interstate Natural Gas Association of America, and American Gas Association endorsed the measure when it passed Congress in December.

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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