Press Releases

Feinstein, Boxer Praise Committee Passage of Pipeline Safety Bill

Measure Reflects Safety, Inspection and Enforcement Provisions in Senators’ Bill in Response to San Bruno Explosion

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer (both D-Calif.) today applauded the Senate Commerce Committee’s passage of the Pipeline Transportation Safety Improvement Act of 2011. The bill reflects many of the safety, inspection and enforcement provisions included in the bill Feinstein and Boxer introduced in response to last year’s natural gas explosion in San Bruno, CA.

The bill that passed the Commerce Committee today, S. 275, also included Senator Boxer’s amendment to ensure the seismicity of an area is a factor in determining pipeline safety, a provision from the Feinstein-Boxer Strengthening Pipeline Safety and Enforcement Act that was introduced in January.

Senator Feinstein said, “I am very pleased the Commerce Committee has unanimously approved legislation to improve pipeline safety. The committee’s bill includes many safety, inspection and enforcement provisions that I first called for with Senator Boxer in the wake of the San Bruno disaster. I thank Chairman Lautenberg for his leadership. I hope to work with the chairman to expand the automatic and remote-control shutoff valve requirement to include existing pipelines where cost effective, as those are the lines at highest risk of catastrophic failure.”

Senator Boxer said, “As the tragic pipeline explosion in San Bruno reminds us, we must do all we can to protect our communities by increasing inspections of our nation’s pipelines while setting tougher penalties for safety violations. While there is more work to be done, the bill the Commerce Committee passed today is a critically important step in addressing serious pipeline safety issues. I am also pleased the committee adopted my amendment to ensure seismic factors are considered in assessing pipeline safety.”

The Pipeline Transportation Safety Improvement Act of 2011 would address safety concerns in the United States’ 2.5 million miles of oil, natural gas, and hazardous liquid pipelines in the following ways:

  • Increases the cap on civil penalties for violators of pipeline regulations and adds civil penalties for obstructing investigations;
  • Authorizes additional pipeline inspectors and pipeline safety support employees through a phased-in increase over the next four years;
  • Requires pipeline operators to verify their records to confirm the pipelines’ physical and operational characteristics and their established maximum allowable operating pressure;
  • Requires pipeline operators to report all maximum allowable operating pressure exceedances to the Department of Transportation;
  • Requires installation of automatic or remote-control shut-off valves on new pipelines;
  • Requires the Secretary to prescribe regulations that establish time limits on accident and leak notifications by pipeline operators to local and state government officials and emergency responders;
  • Increases public availability of pipeline information, inspections and standards by requiring that this information be made available online;
  • Sets more stringent standards on 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
  • Permits expansion of excess flow valve requirements to include multi-family buildings and small commercial facilities.