U.S. Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Turlock), Chairman of the Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials, delivered the opening remarks during a May 20 hearing to review the Pipeline Safety, Regulatory Certainty, and Job Creation Act of 2011.
The law makes a number of reforms to how pipeline transportation is regulated by the Secretary of the Department of Transportation (DOT).
“The United States has the largest network of energy pipelines – 2.5 million miles – of any nation in the world, and pipelines are energy lifelines that power nearly all of our daily activities,” Denham said. “Pipelines are the safest and most cost-effective means to transport the extraordinary volumes of natural gas and hazardous liquid products that fuel our economy. Since 1986, the volume of energy products transported through pipelines has increased by one-third, yet the number of reportable incidents has decreased by 28 percent.”
Despite the improvements, Denham explained that improvements to pipeline safety are needed to continue safe operations.
“While the data shows that federal pipeline safety programs have been on the right track, Congress enacted the 2011 pipeline safety bill to strengthen our efforts, as stakeholders understood there was room for improvement,” Denham said. “The law included 42 congressional mandates of PHMSA, of which 21 are complete, 13 are on schedule and in progress, and eight have been extended beyond their deadline.
“We believe in a risk-based, data-driven approach to pipeline safety that focuses private investment in pipeline safety on those areas of higher risk. As PHMSA develops rules to implement the mandates contained in the 2011 act, it is critically important that we must provide regulatory certainly necessary for pipeline owners and operators to plan infrastructure investments, and do so with input from the safety community and industry. Doing so means maintaining a risk-based approach that applies cost-benefit principles to the development of rules and regulations. It also means doing the due diligence to ensure rules do not go beyond congressional intent, thereby creating uncertainty for the regulated community, which ultimately does not enhance safety.”