The US Senate unanimously passed S. 2276, which would reauthorize the US Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration through fiscal 2019 while requiring the US Department of Transportation agency to finishing implementing mandates from the 2011 reauthorization bill.
The new legislation, which now heads to the US House where a similar bill is being prepared, also would:
· Require PHMSA make statutory requirements for rulemaking a priority over new rulemaking.
· Request that the agency assess natural gas and liquid pipelines’ inspections process and integrity management programs.
· Encourage PHMSA to investigate and report on advanced mapping technologies for pipeline networks.
· Provide the agency direct hire authority so it can address increase its inspection and enforcement staff.
· Call for minimum standards at gas storage facilities, and establish an Aliso Canyon working group to study the recent leak at Southern California Gas Co.’s storage field near Los Angeles, which took months to contain and displaced hundreds of residents from the nearby Porter Ranch subdivision.
· And facilitate coordination and collaboration on research, development, and technology among PHMSA, state and local governments, the gas industry, and the general public.
“For families, consumers, workers, and businesses across our nation, the safety and security of our extensive pipeline network must remain a top priority,” said Sen. Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), who cosponsored S. 227 with Sens. Cory Booker (D-NJ), Steve Daines (R-Mont.), and Gary Peters (D-Mich.).
“The bill we passed today will enhance the safety of these pipelines through stronger congressional oversight and necessary improvements to PHMSA,” she said following the Senate’s vote on Mar. 3.
Officials from two major natural gas trade associations applauded the Senate’s action. Interstate Natural Gas Association of America Pres. Donald F. Santa said on Mar. 4 that the organization was pleased pipeline safety authorization is moving forward, “although we have some concerns with amendments added to S. 2276 during the committee markup.
“We are optimistic that the House or a conference committee will address these concerns,” he continued. “Ultimately, INGAA’s goal is enactment of a reauthorization bill in 2016, and the Senate action last night moves us one step closer.”
American Gas Association Pres. David K. McCurdy said on Mar. 3 that AGA and its gas utility members were pleased that the Senate unanimously recognized pipeline safety’s importance, and called their approval a major step toward getting a final reauthorization bill on US President Barack Obama’s desk in 2016.
The safety of our nation's 2.5-million miles of gas pipelines is a collaborative effort involving the gas industry and federal and local regulators, he observed. “[S. 2276] acknowledges the incredible progress made through the programs set forth in the 2006 and 2011 pipeline safety legislation, and gives regulators the authority they need to continue to enhance the safety of our nation’s natural gas pipelines,” McCurdy said.
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