Federal Pipeline Safety Bills Working through Congress

One Senate bill and two House bills are moving through the legislative process and may result in the completion of a final conference committee report before the summer recess. The final bill could be transmitted to the President before the 2016 elections.

Senate proceedings

In September 2015, the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation committee conducted hearings addressing pipeline safety at both the state and Federal levels. More info and video is available at: Pipeline Safety: State and Local Perspectives (Sept. 18) and Pipeline Safety: Oversight of Our Nation’s Pipeline Network (Sept. 29).

In November 2015, the Senate introduced S. 2276, Securing America’s Future Energy: Protecting our Infrastructure of Pipelines and Enhancing Safety Act or the SAFE PIPES Act. The bill was referred to the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, who reported back with an amendment and recommended it for passage in February 2016. In March, the bill was passed by the Senate and sent to the House. (See our previous post.)

House proceedings

In February 2016 the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure held a hearing, Reauthorization of DOT’s Pipeline Safety Program (Feb. 25) to examine the status of mandates to PHMSA under the 2011 Pipeline Safety Act. The House then introduced its own pipeline safety bills: H.R. 4937 Protecting our Infrastructure of Pipelines and Enhancing Safety (PIPES) Act of 2016 on April 14, and H.R. 5050 Pipeline Safety Act of 2016 on April 26. (H.R. 5050 text)

The first (H.R. 4937) was referred to and passed by the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure on April 20. The second (H.R. 5050) went to the House Energy and Commerce Committee and passed on April 27.

Remaining steps to passage

The two House bills must be reconciled into a single bill before a final vote can occur in the House. Once that happens, there are significant differences between the Senate and House bills that may require the work of a conference committee to produce a final report and bill that could be passed in both chambers and presented to the President before the summer recess.

The final bill could potentially:

  • Reauthorize the PHMSA through 2019 (or possibly 2021) while requiring it to complete the implementation of mandates from the 2011 Pipeline Safety Act and report on its progress at regular intervals to Congress.
  • Direct PHMSA to focus on the completion of outstanding rulemaking before proposing new rules.
  • Require the development of minimum safety standards for gas storage facilities and recommendations for the prevention of, and response to, gas leaks.
  • Strengthen PHMSA authority in emergency situations.
  •  Require the assessment of PHMSA’s natural gas and liquid pipelines inspection process and integrity management programs.
  • Order the investigation of and reporting on technologies for reducing accidents such as the use of improved materials, better corrosion prevention methods, more effective odorization strategies and improved third-party damage prevention.
  • Promote the use of advanced technologies for pipeline mapping, and for pipeline safety data analysis and sharing.
  • Empower PHMSA to increase its inspection and enforcement staff and provide for increased cooperation between Federal, state and local agencies.

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