US House approves amended version of Senate’s pipeline safety bill

The US House unanimously approved an amended federal pipeline safety bill that included changes from bills two of its committees approved in late April and sent the reworked measure back to the Senate for further consideration. The Senate unanimously passed the original version in late March.

The amended bill, the Protecting our Infrastructure of Pipelines and Enhancing Safety (PIPES) Act of 2016, is a collaborative product of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, and the legislation incorporates text from separate bills each committee passed in April, leaders of the two committees jointly said.

It reauthorizes the federal pipeline safety program within the US Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) for 4 years and requires the agency to update safety regulations, increase transparency, and embrace emerging technologies, they indicated.

The bill also speeds up the process of completing outstanding safety requirements included in the 2011 reauthorization, and reforms PHMSA to be a more efficient and data-driven agency, the federal lawmakers said in a statement following the full House’s vote.

Officials from numerous industry associations applauded the House’s action on June 8.

API Executive Vice-Pres. Lewis Finkel said, “The bill will enhance safety, improve transparency of PHMSA’s rulemaking process, shorten inspection reporting time, and improve workforce management.”

Meanwhile, AOPL Pres. Andrew J. Black noted that the PIPES Act:

• Ensures pipeline operators receive timely post-inspection information from the government to allow them to maintain and improve their safety efforts.

• Increases inspection requirements for certain underwater oil pipelines to enhance safety.

• Ensures that product composition information is quickly provided to first responders after an incident.

• Improves protection of coastal areas, marine coastal waters, and the Great Lakes by explicitly designating them as unusually environmentally sensitive to pipeline failures.

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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