Safe and Innovative Pipelines for America
Safe, modern highways, railroads, airways, pipelines, and waterways are essential parts of our nation’s infrastructure. Not only do they transport us and goods from point A to point B, they lower consumer costs, incentivize job creation, and encourage economic growth in our region.
The House Committee on Transportation & Infrastructure, of which I am a member, has advanced long-term reauthorization legislation for passenger rail, highways, and aviation. We will be considering a water resources bill in the near future, and just this week, we took an important step to improve the safety of our national pipeline network by approving – with unanimous, bipartisan support – The Protecting our Infrastructure of Pipelines and Enhancing Safety (PIPES) Act of 2016. Every day in the United States, 2.6 million miles of pipelines transport the energy that power homes, schools and businesses. This legislation would improve the safety of our nation’s pipeline network by working together to promote greater use of innovation, improve communication and cooperation, and close existing gaps in federal safety standards.
Because Southeast Pennsylvania has a significant pipeline network that carries gas and hazardous liquids and the United States has the largest energy pipeline network in the world, safety must be a top priority of any legislation addressing our national pipeline network. The PIPES Act would reauthorize the Pipeline Safety and Hazardous Materials Administration (PHMSA) within the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), which oversees and regulates the safety of our nation’s pipelines.
Similar to the work being done to incorporate new safety technology and data into our cars and railroads, we also need to incorporate new innovation into how we construct and study our pipelines. The PIPES Act directs the federal government to investigate how it can best utilize new technology in pipeline safety, including by tasking PHMSA to work with states, safety groups, and industry stakeholders to develop an information sharing system to improve safety outcomes. The legislation also authorizes the creation of a national integrated pipeline safety database to better understand how federal and state oversight efforts are contributing to pipeline safety.
When it comes to reviewing our pipelines, time is of the essence. PHMSA needs the authority to act quickly and if necessary, issue quality, timely guidance in the interest of public safety. The PIPES Act streamlines the PHMSA rulemaking process and requires PHMSA to update Congress every 60 days on outstanding safety directives, including any reasons for the failure to complete such a directive in a timely manner. This will increase transparency and reduce the bureaucracy related to pipeline safety measures.
Finally, the PIPES Act will close existing gaps in federal safety standards. It does this by requiring PHMSA to set minimum federal safety standards for underground natural gas storage facilities, while allowing states to exceed such federal standards with respect to any intrastate storage facilities.
The PIPES Act is yet another example of how Congress and our government are supposed to work – Republican and Democrat engagement to find solutions that make our country safer and stronger.
Congressman Ryan Costello is a member of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure.