House Energy and Commerce Committee approves pipeline safety bill

The US House Energy and Commerce Committee unanimously passed HR 5050, the pipeline safety reauthorization bill, on Apr. 27. The action followed the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s approval of its own pipeline safety bill, HR 4937, a week earlier.

Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) said the Energy and Commerce Committee’s bill culminated months of bipartisan work to identify weaknesses in US pipeline safety laws. It contains targeted mandates for the US Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration to increase transparency and accountability, complete overdue regulations, and improve pipeline safety, he indicated after the vote.

The legislation also tightens provisions allowing PHMSA to issue emergency orders, brings transparency and interagency reviews to the regulatory process, and increases inspections for some underwater oil pipelines, Upton added.

“While an accident can happen in an instant, the damage takes years to fix, underscoring the need for strong safety laws,” he said. “We promised action, and today, we passed a bill that authorizes PHMSA for five years and goes a long way in strengthening pipeline safety.” HR 4937 would authorize PHMSA’s authority for 4 years.

The Interstate Natural Gas Association of America welcomed the Energy and Commerce Committee’s action. ““We appreciate that HR 5050 is a 5-year reauthorization, starting at fiscal 2017, which was a suggestion INGAA made earlier this year,” a spokeswoman said.

“We also appreciate that the committee made some critically important modifications to the emergency order authority section of the bill, so that it mirrors the provision contained in HR 4937 (the Transportation and Infrastructure version),” she said. “INGAA remains committed to making further modifications to this new authority, however, including most importantly ensuring that pipeline owners and operators are consulted prior to the issuance of a multipipeline emergency order.”

The US Senate previously approved its own federal pipeline safety bill, which would reauthorize PHMSA through fiscal 2019 while requiring the US Department of Transportation agency to finishing implementing mandates from the 2011 reauthorization law (OGJ Online, Mar. 4, 2016).

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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