New York — President Donald Trump on Dec. 27 signed into law long-awaited pipeline safety legislation, establishing multiyear guidelines and funding for the agency that oversees the integrity of the nation's vast network of gas and hazardous liquids lines.
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The Protecting our Infrastructure of Pipelines and Enhancing Safety Act of 2020, or PIPES Act, was part of the sweeping omnibus package that included federal government funding and coronavirus relief. The legislation funded ongoing operations at the US Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, or PHMSA, and included mandates for the agency to create new rules for facility operators.
"Thanks to Congress's actions, consumers and communities will benefit from this robust legislation, including a safer pipeline system, greater pipeline capacity, more innovation, and a heightened focus on safety culture among all stakeholders," PHMSA Administrator Skip Elliott said in a Dec. 28 statement.
The passage came about a year and a half after House Democrats introduced the periodic legislation. Ultimately, Congress settled on legislation based largely on a bipartisan Senate bill, following a protracted, back-and-forth battle in the House of Representatives.
"INGAA supports the PIPES Act and applauds the collaborative, bipartisan, bicameral work that got us here today," Interstate Natural Gas Association of America President and CEO Amy Andryszak said in a Dec. 21 statement. "This legislation is the result of years of effort on both sides of the aisle to provide PHMSA with the necessary resources to continue its important work overseeing our nation's pipeline infrastructure."
Andryszak praised some of the legislation's highlights, including a batch of rulemaking requirements to mitigate methane emissions from gas infrastructure and a provision allowing operators to pilot new technologies and processes on existing systems.
The pilot program would allow PHMSA to gather data necessary to update its safety regulations, according to the Association of Oil Pipe Lines, or AOPL. "Bipartisan agreement remains the way to get pipeline safety legislation done," AOPL President and CEO Andy Black said in a Dec. 22 statement.
American Gas Association President and CEO Karen Harbert also welcomed the action, saying it built on the progress of past pipeline safety bills. "This legislation renews our federal regulators' ability to be an effective partner in our ongoing pipeline safety efforts — collaboration that is critical to enhancing the safety of our systems," she said in a Dec. 22 statement.
The Pipeline Safety Trust, which represents the American public in stakeholder meetings and frequently offers feedback on rulemakings, applauded the passage as well.
"Along with providing more funding for PHMSA, we are happy to see progress being made on public transparency," Pipeline Safety Trust Executive Director Bill Caram said in an email. "We are also pleased that for the first time, operators will need to address the serious environmental effects from pipelines that, up until now, have been allowed to leak methane as a regular course of business."