Pipeline safety forum seeks to assure Americans

By Ray LaHood, US Secretary of Transporation

Here at the Department of Transportation, safety is our number one priority – whether it involves planes, trains, buses, trucks, cars, or pipelines. Improving safety is the first thing I think about in the morning. It’s the thing that keeps me awake at night. 

That’s why I’m so concerned about the rising number of deaths in pipeline explosions across America – which have multiplied from nine in 2008, to 13 in 2009, to 22 in 2010, even as the overall numbers of pipeline accidents have declined. And that’s why, today, the DOT hosted more than 200 people, representing a wide range of pipeline stakeholders, for a National Pipeline Safety Forum. 

For our part, the Obama Administration has already stepped up our pipeline safety efforts: 

• President Obama has proposed a 15 percent increase in federal pipeline safety funding, which will allow us to hire more dedicated safety professionals. 

• This August, we will put into place a new rule requiring all operators of gas distribution pipelines to evaluate their risks and take immediate steps to mitigate those risks. 

• And I've called on Congress to raise the maximum civil penalties for pipeline safety violations and boost the number of safety experts available to perform pipeline inspections. 

But everyone at today's safety forum knows that we can't fix America's pipelines from Washington. 

We need the pipeline community to step up their efforts. We need them to begin discussing safety risks – and how best to identify and address these risks without delay. 

America's network of pipelines is vast, with more than 2.5 million miles of oil and natural gas criss-crossing the country. And that network is really more of a patchwork--a patchwork of state-controlled, privately controlled, and utility-controlled segments; a patchwork of regulations; and a patchwork of safety practices. 

Ultimately, the public doesn’t know or care who has jurisdiction over these essential utility lines. They just want to know that they can turn on the lights, the heat, or the stove without endangering their families and neighbors. 

We need the pipeline community to work together and find a solution, now. And I'm counting on those gathered for today's forum to make that happen.



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