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House panel approves 2nd Pipeline Safety Act reauthorization bill


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House panel approves 2nd Pipeline Safety Act reauthorization bill

A week after a U.S. House committee approved a bill toreauthorize the federal Pipeline Safety Act, another committee has approved aseparate piece of legislation dealing with reauthorization.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee on April 27 approvedH.R. 5050, the Pipeline Safety Act of 2016. Introduced April 26 by Rep. FredUpton, R-Mich., the bill has much in common with California Republican Rep.Jeff Denham's H.R. 4937,approved recently inthe House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

Both would mandate regulations for underground gas storageand give the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administrationemergency-order authority to allow the agency to act more nimbly, among otherprovisions. But Upton's version would cover 2017-2021, whereas Denham's wouldspan only 2016-2019.

Upton's H.R. 5050 also calls for the agency to increasetransparency with respect to U.S. Office of Management and Budget, or OMB,reviews of PHMSA-proposed rules. Denham's H.R. 4937 takes a more retrospectiveapproach to OMB transparency, requesting that PHMSA explain the office's rolein delayingcongressionally mandated regulations to date.

Delays at the OMB were frequently a topic of discussionduring congressional hearings in recent years that focused on why PHMSA took solong to produce mandated regulations.

Denham's bill would have PHMSA be more up front with stateregulators if they are denied authority over interstate pipelines. By contrast,Upton's bill made no mention of this issue. PHMSA's denial of state regulatoryauthority over interstate lines hasbeen a sticking point with state pipeline safety regulators, manyof whom feel stonewalled by the federal agency when trying to pursue greaterauthority within their states.

Upton introduced H.R. 5050 along with Reps. Frank PalloneJr., D-N.J., and Bobby Rush, D-Ill. House legislators must now merge theirbills before a full chamber vote. The Senate in March of Pipeline SafetyAct reauthorization.

The Interstate Natural Gas Association of America and theAmerican Gas Association touted the legislative progress. INGAA, in particular,applauded Upton's five-year reauthorization, noting that the longer intervalwould allow for greater certainty over more time.