Senate Bill Aims to Hike Pipeline Safety

Thursday, February 10, 2011 @ 06:02 AM gHale


Pipeline safety remains a hot button in terms of potential new laws coming down the road as two U.S. senators introduced legislation this past week to eliminate accidents and hike fines.

The bill proposes to increase violation fines to a maximum of $2.5 million, up from $1 million, and allows the federal government to hire 39 new enforcement and inspection officials. The bill would also hire more federal safety inspectors and require automatic shut-off valves to prevent oil spills and natural gas explosions.

“While our pipeline system is largely safe, when accidents occur the consequences can be catastrophic,” said Senator Frank Lautenberg, who co-sponsored the legislation along with Senator Jay Rockefeller. “We can prevent deadly accidents by requiring more advanced technology, increased inspections, and steeper penalties for safety violations.”

The United States has about 2.5 million miles of pipelines that move oil, natural gas and other hazardous liquids. There have been an average 40 pipeline accidents a year since 2006 that have killed or injured people.

The Transportation Department’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) sought the legislation.

The bill reauthorizes the agency through 2014 and gives it more authority.

“Pipeline safety is vital to the nation’s energy infrastructure. We look forward to working with the Congress,” said agency spokeswoman Julia P. Valentine about the bill.

PHMSA’s ability to oversee the nation’s pipeline network came in question last year following several high profile accidents.

A PG&E Corp natural gas line exploded in a San Francisco suburb last September, killing eight people and destroying 37 homes. Separately, several leaks on the Enbridge pipeline system spilled thousands of barrels of oil in the Midwest.



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