Senate Dems call for pipeline, hazmat regulator

Senate Dems call for pipeline, hazmat regulator

Ten Senate Democrats implored President Obama Thursday to nominate a new head for the Pipeline and Hazardous Material Safety Administration (PHMSA), which has not had a leader in seven months.

The letter came two days after an oil pipeline on California’s coast leaked an estimated 105,000 gallons of oil into the the Pacific Ocean, which washed onto the beaches of Santa Barbara County.

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The PHMSA is part of the Transportation Department. Its responsibilities extend over areas like crude oil transportation by rail and oil and natural gas pipelines, important areas that need a lead regulator, said the Democrats, led by Sen. Maria CantwellMaria CantwellOvernight Energy: Dakota pipeline standoff heats up Obama rescinds Arctic offshore drilling proposal Overnight Energy: Hopes rise for Flint aid MORE (D-Wash.), top Democrat on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

“Our states have unfortunately experienced first-hand what happens when old pipelines break,” they wrote. “These types of spills highlight the importance of proper oversight and sensible regulations.”

Cynthia Quarterman, the PHMSA’s last administrator, left the agency in October as it was working on a fast track to develop new oil train regulations amid various high-profile disasters.

PHMSA and other Transportation Department agencies unveiled the final rules earlier this month, but environmentalists and industry are suing to stop them from taking effect.

“It is important to states like ours that PHMSA have a permanent administrator to ensure accountability, to develop long-term plans for pipeline transport and crude-by-rail safety, and to respond quickly when things unfortunately go wrong,” the Democrats said.