House Committee Holds Markup on SAFER Pipelines Act to Reauthorize the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA)

Nov 22, 2019

by ASME.org

Last week, the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure held a markup of H.R. 5120, the SAFER Pipelines Act of 2019, which would reauthorize the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA). The House markup follows action by the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation in late-July to advance its own legislation, S.2299, the PIPES Act of 2019; the two versions of the legislation will have to be conferenced to resolve significant differences.
 
The House bill would renew and increase expiring authorizations of appropriations for pipeline safety activities overseen by PHMSA, including research and development, emergency response grants, state pipeline safety grants, the State Damage Prevention Program, and One-Call Notification Program. The House version includes more ambitious measures than the Senate’s, including changes to civil penalties and criminal liability, rulemaking requirements such as eliminating the cost benefit analysis unique to PHMSA, expanded public awareness and community right to know information, specific valve requirements, and rules intended to limit direct assessment.
 
Passage would ensure that states have the resources they need to enforce Federal regulations on interstate pipeline safety. The bill includes a section on Inspection and Maintenance, which would allow PHMSA to request information about the construction of pipelines from pipeline owners or operators, including information on when construction is stopped. It would also require PHMSA to study the establishment of a pipeline safety research and testing facility that would support product evaluation, research and development, and practices to improve the safety, security, efficiency, and environmental impacts of pipelines.
 
The bill also has a workforce development component aimed at increasing hiring and retention to address deficiencies in safety inspection and enforcement. A summary can be found at: https://transportation.house.gov/imo/media/doc/2019-11-15%20section%20by%20section%20on%20letter%20head.pdf.
 

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