Search Penny Hill Press

Loading...

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Keeping America’s Pipelines Safe and Secure: Key Issues for Congress


Paul W. Parfomak
Specialist in Energy and Infrastructure Policy

Nearly half a million miles of pipeline transporting natural gas, oil, and other hazardous liquids crisscross the United States. While an efficient and fundamentally safe means of transport, many pipelines carry materials with the potential to cause public injury and environmental damage. The nation’s pipeline networks are also widespread and vulnerable to accidents and terrorist attack. The 2006 partial shutdown of the Prudhoe Bay, AK, oil field, and the 2010 pipeline accidents in San Bruno, CA, and Marshall, MI, have heightened congressional concern about pipeline risks. Both government and industry have taken numerous steps to improve pipeline safety and security over the last 10 years. While many stakeholders agree that federal pipeline safety programs have been on the right track, recent pipeline incidents suggest there continues to be room for improvement. Likewise the threat of terrorist attack on U.S. pipelines remains a concern.

The federal pipeline safety program was authorized through the fiscal year ending September 30, 2010, and is currently operating under a continuing resolution. S. 3856 would reauthorize the program through FY2014. Both the House and Senate versions of the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2011 (H.R. 5850 and S. 3644) would provide appropriations for the federal pipeline safety program for FY2011.

The 111
th Congress is considering new legislation to improve the safety and security of the U.S. pipeline network. H.R. 6008 would require pipeline operators to provide immediate telephonic notice of a pipeline release to federal emergency response officials and would increase civil penalties for pipeline safety violations. S. 3824 would increase the number of federal pipeline safety inspectors, would require automatic shutoff valves for natural gas pipelines, and would mandate internal inspections of transmission pipelines, among other provisions. S. 3856 would increase federal pipeline safety inspectors, would require automatic or remote controlled shutoff valves on new gas pipelines, would require public access to pipeline emergency response plans, and would increase civil penalties for pipeline safety violations, among other provisions. H.R. 6295 would require automatic or remote shut-off valves for many pipelines and public disclosure of pipeline locations, among other provisions. S. 1333 would change natural gas pipeline integrity assessment intervals. H.R. 2220 would mandate a new federal pipeline security study.

As Congress debates reauthorization of the federal pipeline safety program and oversees the federal role in pipeline security, key questions may be raised concerning pipeline agency staff resources, automatic pipeline shutoff valves, penalties for pipeline safety violations, and the possible need for pipeline security regulations. In addition to these specific issues, Congress may wish to assess how the various elements of U.S. pipeline safety and security activity fit together in the nation’s overall strategy to protect transportation infrastructure. Pipeline safety and security necessarily involve many groups: federal agencies, oil and gas pipeline associations, large and small pipeline operators, and local communities. Reviewing how these groups work together to achieve common goals could be an oversight challenge for Congress.



Date of Report: December 13, 2010
Number of Pages: 32
Order Number: R41536
Price: $29.95

Follow us on TWITTER at
http://www.twitter.com/alertsPHP or #CRSreports

Document available via e-mail as a pdf file or in paper form.
To order, e-mail
Penny Hill Press  or call us at 301-253-0881. Provide a Visa, MasterCard, American Express, or Discover card number, expiration date, and name on the card. Indicate whether you want e-mail or postal delivery. Phone orders are preferred and receive priority processing.