President Signs Landmark Pipeline Safety Legislation

Support from pipeline industry and safety advocates helps move reauthorization and safety measure through a balky legislative system

President Obama signed into law a measure making sweeping changes of the nation’s pipeline safety programs. This legislation was approved by Congress the week of December 12th.

“Extensive negotiations between the House Republican majority, Democrats, and Senate leaders produced these significant improvements to pipeline safety for the nation,” said U.S. Rep. John L. Mica (R-FL), chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and one of the authors of the legislation. “This much-needed action comes on the heels of several major pipeline accidents over the past several years.”

Mica credited U.S. Rep. Bill Shuster (R-PA), Chairman of the Railroads, Pipelines and Hazardous Materials Subcommittee and also one of the principle authors of the bill, for working together with Transportation Committee Ranking Member Rahall, Railroads Subcommittee Ranking Member Brown, House Energy and Commerce Committee leaders, and Senate lawmakers in moving the bill forward. “This legislation represents a bipartisan, bicameral, and multi-committee achievement at a time when Congress has struggled to get many bills passed,” Mica added.

“This is landmark legislation that provides the regulatory certainty necessary for the pipeline industry to make critical investments and create American jobs,” said Chairman Shuster. “Safety is always of the highest priority and this law strengthens current law, fills gaps in existing law where necessary, and focuses on directly responding to recent pipeline incidents with balanced and reasonable policies, including addressing high-profile incidents in California, Michigan, Montana, and Pennsylvania.”

The legislation goes into effect immediately upon the President’s signature.

The Pipeline Safety, Regulatory Certainty, and Job Creation Act of 2011 authorizes funding for programs of the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) through fiscal year 2015. PHMSA oversees safety programs for the 2.3 million miles of natural gas, petroleum, and other hazardous liquid pipelines in the United States.

This system of pipelines -- the largest in the world -- serves as the arteries of the nation’s energy infrastructure, enabling the safe, efficient and economical movement of extraordinary quantities of energy products to industry and consumers, literally fueling the U.S. economy. Since 1986, the volume of energy products transported through pipelines has increased by one-third, yet the number of reportable incidents has decreased by 28 percent. Government and industry have taken steps to improve pipeline safety, and the Pipeline Safety, Regulatory Certainty, and Job Creation Act ensures that we continue the nation’s commitment to making this safe form of transportation even safer.

Summary of the Pipeline Safety, Regulatory Certainty, and Job Creation Act of 2011

• Reauthorizes federal pipeline safety programs of the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) through FY 2015
• Provides regulatory certainty necessary for pipeline owners and operators to plan infrastructure investments and create jobs
• Improves pipeline transportation -- the safest and most cost-effective means to transport natural gas and hazardous liquid products -- by strengthening enforcement of current laws and filling gaps in existing law where necessary
• Ensures a balanced regulatory approach to improving safety that applies cost benefit principles
• Addresses National Transportation Safety Board recommendations resulting from recent pipeline incidents
• Protects and preserves Congressional authority by ensuring certain key rulemakings are not finalized until Congress has an opportunity to act
• Supported by both pipeline industry and safety advocates