Senators push pipeline safety reform bill

Senators push pipeline safety reform bill
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A bipartisan group of senators has introduced a bill to beef up pipeline safety standards. 

The bill, from Sens. Deb FischerDebra (Deb) Strobel FischerSenate Republicans raise concerns about TSA cyber directives for rail, aviation Austin, Milley to testify on Afghanistan withdrawal After messy Afghanistan withdrawal, questions remain MORE (R-Neb.), Cory BookerCory BookerAfter 35 years, Congress should finally end the sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine Reforming marijuana laws before the holidays: A three-pronged approach Black Caucus pushes for priorities in final deal MORE (D-N.J.) and others, reauthorizes the federal agency charged with pipeline safety and directs it to take new steps to crack down on spills and problems with the American pipeline network.

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“America’s pipelines move critical energy resources to our homes and businesses,” Fischer said in a statement. “Congress must conduct robust oversight to ensure the safety of this important network.” 

The senators’ bill would reauthorize the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) through 2019. It would direct the agency to prioritize its current safety regulatory regime over new rulemaking and call for reports on new mapping technology and safety programs for liquid and nature gas pipelines.

The bill would give the agency new hiring powers and encourage coordination between federal regulators, states and the private sector.

Lawmakers have criticized PHMSA’s oversight of pipelines in light of high-profile spills around the country over the past several years.

In July, senators questioned Marie Therese Dominguez, President Obama’s nominee to head PHMSA, over everything from the agency's regulatory jurisdiction to its ability to implement congressionally-mandated safety reforms.

The new bill, sponsors say, would give the agency more direction on its priorities.

“With new technologies at our fingertips, we should be pursuing more effective and efficient ways to safeguard against potential pipeline accidents that threaten public safety and our environment,” Booker said.