It’s reauthorization time again. Every 4 years, chapter 49 of the code of federal regulations governing pipeline safety comes up for review. This includes authorization of appropriations to fund the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) and reauthorization of agency’s mandate to promulgate and enforce pipeline safety regulations. The last version, currently in effect, is the the Pipeline Safety, Regulatory Certainty, and Job Creation Act of 2011. (Note: Many regulations passed in that time frame included the phrase “job creation.” The regulations certainly did not foster job growth. Given the Obama administration’s stance against building more infrastructure, exploration, and exporting, there can be no claim of job creation in 2015…the only jobs expanding are government inspectors.)
The new bill, titled ‘‘Securing America’s Future Energy: Protecting our Infrastructure of Pipelines and Enhancing Safety Act’’ or the ‘‘SAFE PIPES Act’’ was introduced Senators Deb Fischer (NE) and Cory Booker (NJ). As expected, the focus is on aging infrastructure, review (and expansion) of integrity management and security. In the area of environmental protection, the bill would amend the regulations to explicitly state that the Great Lakes are a USA ecological resource (as defined in section 195.6(b)) for purposes of determining whether a pipeline is in a high consequence area. The bill would also streamline hiring practices for PHMSA to fast track bringing on more inspectors. Read the full bill here.