In yet another legislative step to strengthen regulatory oversight of the national pipeline network at the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), the House Energy and Commerce Committee approved a series of measures known as H.R. 5050 allowing PHMSA to issue emergency orders to shut down pipeline systems and issue emergency regulations, bring new transparency to interagency reviews, tighten standards for underground natural gas storage systems and mandate the installation of leak detection technologies.
“While an accident can happen in an instant, the damage takes years to fix, underscoring the need for strong safety laws. We promised action, and today, we passed a bill that authorizes PHMSA for five years and goes a long way in strengthening pipeline safety,” Rep. Fred Upton, R-MI, chairman of the committee, said in a statement.
The bill represents a compromise after Democrats complained at an earlier energy and power subcommittee meeting that the bill was too deferential to the oil and natural gas industry. Republicans agreed to some of the requested changes, including the attempt to add transparency to PHMSA’s regulatory process, which some Democrats think it is too slow and bogged down.
H.R. 5050 will be reconciled with similar legislation (H.R. 4937) passed by the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee earlier this week. A comprehensive bill is expected to pass in the House of Representatives and become law.