Last week the Senate Commerce Committee passed the Safe Pipes Act, a preliminary step to reauthorize the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) before House and ultimately Executive Level approval.
The final passage of the bill will give PHMSA enhanced authority to regulate the 2.5 million miles of aging pipelines in the United States, including the appointment of more regulators to monitor pipelines as well as a special writ to prevent "inadvertent releases" otherwise known as leaks in industry parlance.
Key provisions of the bill include:
- Re-prioritizing and requiring PHMSA to complete outstanding mandates from the 2011 reauthorization bill.
- Requiring PHMSA to prioritize statutory requirements for rulemaking over new rulemaking.
- Requesting that PHMSA conduct an assessment of inspections process and Integrity Management programs for natural gas and liquid pipelines.
- Encouraging PHMSA to investigate and report on advanced mapping technologies for pipeline networks.
- Providing direct hire authority to the agency so PHMSA can address its staffing challenges.
- Calling for minimum standards to ensure the safety of natural gas storage facilities.
- Ensuring coordination and collaboration on research, development, and technology between PHMSA, industry, and public sector stakeholders.