Energy & Environment

Obama signs pipeline safety bill

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President Obama signed a bill Wednesday to renew the federal government’s pipeline safety program, giving regulators new emergency authorities.

The Protecting our Infrastructure of Pipelines and Enhancing Safety Act of 2016, or PIPES Act, reauthorizes the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration’s (PHMSA) oil and gas pipeline programs through 2019, with a few new mandates for the agency.

{mosads}Obama’s signature follows unanimous passage in both the House and the Senate.

“We came together, Republicans and Democrats, to improve pipeline safety, and we got the job done with this important law,” a bipartisan group of House lawmakers, led by the top members of the Transportation and Energy and Commerce committees, said in a Wednesday statement following Obama’s signature.

“Every day, American families and businesses depend on safe and efficient energy transportation,” they said. “The PIPES Act will ensure that our nation’s 2.6 million miles of pipelines continue to provide critical access to energy, and we are proud of the bipartisan work that made this effort a success.”

The law gives the secretary of Transportation, who oversees PHMSA, the power to quickly issue emergency orders for the pipeline industry, for example, if an incident exposes a widespread problem.

It also requires that PHMSA develop national regulations for the construction and operation of underground natural gas storage facilities. That provision is in response to the massive Aliso Canyon gas leak in southern California, which lasted from October 2015 to February 2016 and leaked about 97,000 tons of gas into the atmosphere.

Beyond those mandates, the bill instructs PHMSA to continue to work on a large set of mandates from the 2011 pipeline safety law, many of which the agency has not completed.

Tags Natural gas oil Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration pipelines

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