Pipeline agency issues rule expanding emergency powers

Pipeline agency issues rule expanding emergency powers

Federal pipeline regulators issued a rule Tuesday to expand their agency’s power to regulate pipelines that pose an imminent threat to public safety or the environment. 

If finalized, the rule would give the Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) the power to issue emergency restrictions and safety measures on gas or liquid pipeline operators if their pipelines present dangers to the public. 

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For example, the agency could step in if there is a manufacturing problem discovered in a pipe or other equipment, PHMSA said in a statement Tuesday. 

"Pipeline incidents can have devastating impacts on local communities and the environment," Transportation Secretary Anthony FoxxAnthony Renard FoxxBig Dem names show little interest in Senate Lyft sues New York over new driver minimum pay law Lyft confidentially files for IPO MORE said in a statement. 

"The new regulations carry out DOT's enhanced authority to compel industry to take immediate action to address problems that put people, property or the environment at risk. We hope we never have to use it, but it is an important safety tool that will result in greater protection for the American public."

The new rule — which officials will publish in the Federal Register soon — is part of the new powers given to PHMSA in a pipeline safety bill lawmakers passed earlier this year. 

The legislation — which Congress approved unanimously, and President Obama signed in June, gives PHMSA the power to quickly issue new emergency orders for pipeline operators or the entire industry is there is a widespread problem. 

The law also reauthorized PHMSA and directed it to complete work on a set of mandates passed in a 2011 pipeline safety law.