Pipeline Safety Legislation Should Be Focused On Truly Advancing Safety

American Gas Association (AGA) Vice President of Operations and Engineering Services Christina Sames recently testified before the U.S. House Committee on Energy and Commerce’s Subcommittee on Energy, telling the subcommittee that there is little in their discussion draft that accomplishes the goal of enhancing the safety of America’s natural gas pipelines.

“The industry is supportive of flexible, risk-based, and practicable improvements to pipeline safety that reflect lessons learned from past pipeline incidents,” Sames said in her testimony. “Safety is at the very core of what AGA and its members do, and we go well beyond regulation to improve pipeline safety.”

Delivery of natural gas by pipeline is consistently found to be among the safest forms of transportation in studies by the Bureau of Transportation Statistics.

The discussion draft eliminates the use of Direct Assessment, a predictive tool that determines where pipeline corrosion has occurred and indicates where corrosion could occur. The draft would also require operators to send an overwhelming amount of information to emergency responders despite repeated requests from fire marshals, fire chiefs and emergency responders for condensed information that is simple to understand.

The proposed legislation also removes the requirement that a regulation be “reasonable” or “cost-beneficial,” yet Sames stated that “the cost-benefit analysis was mandated to ensure that regulations do not put an undue burden on customers without a measurable improvement to the safe delivery of natural gas.  That’s logical and should continue to be the criteria for developing regulations.” AGA supports the cost-benefit analysis process set forth by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration’s Gas Pipeline Advisory Committee.

AGA asked the subcommittee to consider three high-level principles:

  1. Preserve Industry Engagement in Pipeline Safety Rulemaking by upholding the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration’s regulatory process.
  2. Support Flexibility in Rulemaking by recognizing that gas distribution systems differ and avoid one-size-fits all mandates.
  3. Don’t Obstruct State Pipeline Replacement Programs via new mandates that delay pipe replacements or require replacement faster than work can be accomplished safely, reliably, and without compromising quality.
  4. Focus on Provisions that Improve Pipeline Safety by avoiding extraneous legal, regulatory, and administrative provisions that hamper the regulatory process.