U.S. House Panel Approves Pipeline Safety Measure

The chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee urged the Senate today to pass bipartisan pipeline safety legislation his committee unanimously approved this morning.

The committee passed a reauthorization of the federal pipeline safety statute that would require broader federal regulation of so-called low-stress oil pipelines than a recently proposed Bush administration rule (E&E Daily, Sept. 27).

Low-stress lines have gained increased attention following the revelation of corrosion problems that caused a major cut in production at BP's Prudhoe Bay field in Alaska. These lines are currently exempt from federal regulation in many cases.

"We need to reauthorize the Pipeline Safety Improvement Act this year," Chairman Joe Barton (R-Texas) said. "I hope our friends in the other body agree and will accept this committee's strong, bipartisan piece of legislation." Barton said he was confident an agreement could be reached before Congress adjourns this year.

Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.), the committee's ranking member, said the measure is stronger than the Bush administration's recent proposal, which critics say would not cover enough of the nation's network of low-stress lines and would not impose sufficiently strict operator inspection rules.

"The bill includes language that requires the vast majority of low-stress liquid lines to be covered by regulations in an identical manner as high-stress liquid lines," Dingell said. "In my opinion, this language is far better than the proposed rule recently issued by DOT."

Key industry and pipeline safety groups are backing the plan that cleared committee. However, it differs significantly from pipeline safety reauthorization legislation that was approved in the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee over the summer. The two panels share jurisdiction over the issue.

The current pipeline safety statute expires this year. Legislation the committee approved today addresses a host of safety and enforcement issues, such as authorizing grants for state pipeline damage prevention programs and requiring the federal Department of Transportation to provide public summaries of enforcement actions against pipeline operators.

Copyright 2006 Greenwire. All Rights Reserved. Visit E&E Publishing for a free trial.