New rules for gas, oil pipeline safety

Early last week, Congress approved a new set of the oil and gas pipeline safety regulations that tightened safety rules and increased the applicable penalties for breaches, according to The New York Times.

The new pipeline safety rules set new requirements for both testing and the safety systems implemented in the construction of new pipelines. Any new or renovated pipelines will be required to add automatic shutoff valves to help prevent spills, such as those that occurred in Montana in July and in Michigan last year.

This comes on top of the more basic changes, which imposes maximum pressure standards for pipeline testing. The new law also doubles the allowable fines from $1 million to $2 million.

Many Democrats called for far stricter regulation, particularly in the wake of the natural gas pipeline explosion in southern California last year that resulted in eight deaths.

Bloomberg notes that some safety experts are particularly worried because the law allows for the use of the "direct assessment" testing method that failed to warn of that impending explosion, raising concerns about the efficacy of the new law.

Further information on the North American pipeline industry can be found at PennEnergy's Research area.

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