Dec 14 2011
Measure reflects safety, inspection and enforcement provisions in senators’ response to San Bruno explosion
Washington—U.S. Senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer (both D-Calif.) praised Senate and House passage of the Pipeline Safety, Regulatory Certainty, and Job Creation Act of 2011 (H.R. 2845), a bill to address safety concerns about the 2.5 million miles of oil, natural gas and hazardous liquid pipelines in the United States. The measure passed the Senate Tuesday evening and the House late Monday.
The legislation reflects many of the safety, inspection and enforcement provisions included in the Strengthening Pipeline Safety and Enforcement Act of 2011 (S. 234), a bill Feinstein and Boxer introduced in response to last year’s tragic natural gas explosion in San Bruno.
Senator Feinstein said: “The pipeline safety bill that Congress approved this week puts in place long overdue safety improvements to the pipelines that run beneath our neighborhoods. Last year’s explosion in San Bruno showed how little is known about these pipelines and how deadly mistakes can be. This bill includes many provisions from legislation I drafted with Senator Boxer that I hope will help prevent another tragedy.
“This bill makes sure pipeline operators know the limits of their pipelines and abide by them, and allows for more inspectors and harsher penalties to enforce the law. It requires the first-ever pressure testing for older pipelines and requires automatic shut-off valves where feasible. In short, this bill puts in place commonsense safeguards that should have existed years ago.”
Senator Boxer said: “The tragic pipeline explosion in San Bruno brought to light serious deficiencies in the regulation and management of pipeline safety. While still more needs to be done, this bill represents an important step toward ensuring the safety of our communities by increasing pipeline inspections and imposing tougher penalties for safety violations.”
In October, Senator Boxer helped lead a Senate Commerce Subcommittee hearing on the need to strengthen pipeline safety at which Senator Feinstein testified.
The Pipeline Safety, Regulatory Certainty, and Job Creation Act of 2011 will improve pipeline safety by:
- Requiring pipeline operators to verify their records to confirm the pipelines’ physical and operational characteristics and their established maximum allowable operating pressure;
- Requiring the pressure testing of pipelines that have not been previously pressure tested;
- Requiring installation of automatic or remote-controlled shut-off valves on new pipelines or as pipelines are replaced;
- Increasing the cap on civil penalties for violators of pipeline regulations and adding civil penalties for obstructing investigations;
- Authorizing additional pipeline inspectors and pipeline safety support employees;
- Requiring pipeline operators to report all maximum allowable operating pressure exceedances to the Department of Transportation;
- Requiring the Secretary to prescribe regulations that establish time limits on accident and leak notifications by pipeline operators and review procedures for providing notifications to local and state officials and emergency responders;
- Considering the seismicity of an area in determining pipeline safety;
- Setting more stringent standards for grant requirements pertaining to state “One-Call” systems by eliminating all exemptions given to local and state government agencies and their contractors on notifying “One-Call” centers before digging; and
- Permitting expansion of excess flow valve requirements to include multi-family buildings and small commercial facilities.
The bill will now go to President Obama for his signature.