Senate vote sends 2016 pipeline safety bill to White House

The US Senate unanimously approved an amended federal pipeline safety bill it received days earlier from the House of Representatives, sending it to the White House for President Obama’s signature. The June 13 vote came days after the House passed an amended version of the original measure which the Senate had approved previously (OGJ Online, June 9, 2016).

The 2016 Protecting Our Infrastructure of Pipelines and Enhancing Safety (PIPES) Act reauthorizes the federal pipeline safety program in the US Pipeline & Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) through fiscal 2019.

“Americans rely on energy transported through our nation’s pipeline network—and its safety and certainty,” Sen. John Thune (R-SD), who chairs the Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee where the measure originated, said following the latest vote. “The PIPES Act reforms pipeline safety and will help answer the need for more reliable access to energy.”

Interstate Natural Gas Association of America Pres. Donald F. Santa applauded the Senate’s passage of the final bill. “We look forward to the president making this important bill law as soon as possible,” he said.

Although Congress made needed and important improvements to the legislation before final passage, it is critical that Congress continues to conduct vigilant oversight to ensure PHMSA’s new authorities are not abused, American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers Pres. Chet Thompson warned.

“In giving PHMSA wide-ranging emergency order authority that, if used improperly, has the potential for severe disruptions for businesses and consumers, Congress must now carefully monitor its actions to avoid agency overreach, which could inhibit the energy industry’s ability to provide affordable and abundant fuel in a safe and reliable manner,” he said.

Federal law and regulation combine with pipeline industry recommended practices and the safety programs of pipeline operators to keep pipelines safe, according to Association of Oil Pipe Lines Pres. Andrew J. Black.

“Each year, pipeline operators spend more than $2 billion to evaluate, maintain, and perform preventative maintenance on their pipelines,” Black said. “The result is pipelines are the safest way to move liquid energy products across the nation. A barrel of crude oil or petroleum products reaches its destination safely by pipeline 99.999% of the time.”

American Petroleum Institute Executive Vice-Pres. Louis Finkel said, “Pipelines continue to be one of the safest modes for transporting energy across the country. As domestic production grows, they will be the critical link to connect our abundant oil and gas resources to refineries, chemical plants, business and consumers.”

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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