“A major, overarching problem with the federal pipeline safety program is that it takes the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) too long to finalize Congressional mandates.” So stated Congressman Frank Pallone (D-NJ), Chairman of the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee at a June 19 hearing before the group’s Energy Subcommittee to address “Legislative Solutions to Make Our Nation’s Pipelines Safer.”
The hearing focused on two legislative proposals:
- Discussion Draft: The Safer Pipelines Act of 2019
- 2139: The Leonel Rondon Pipeline Safety Act
During the hearing, Republicans on the committee complained that they were not consulted in the development of the Discussion Draft. Testimony was presented by witnesses from three industry associations and the Pipeline Safety Trust, a public interest pipeline safety organization. A common theme that dominated much of the discussion during the hearing was the inaction of PHMSA to implement legislative improvements previously enacted by Congress. Congressman Pallone noted:
There are still outstanding rulemakings that were required in the 2011 and 2016 reauthorizations that PHMSA has failed to finish. This is unacceptable. At our oversight hearing in May, we heard that the biggest cause for delay is the prescriptive cost-benefit analysis required by the 1996 reauthorization. The discussion draft removes this duplicative requirement, while still ensuring PHMSA rules are subject to the same economic analysis that every other major rule receives.
As reported in last week’s ABRA Update, there has been an ongoing effort by ABRA activists to bring to PHMSA’s attention the concerns many have about the instability of the chosen route of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. Numerous attempts to engage the agency in addressing these concerns have, so far, not succeeded.