Pipeline companies encouraged by new US pipeline safety bill

By the OGJ Online Staff

WASHINGTON, DC, Dec. 21 -- A bipartisan group of pro-industry US House members introduced pipeline safety legislation Thursday, increasing the likelihood that Congress will complete legislative action on the issue in 2002, pipeline companies said.

The "Pipeline Infrastructure Protection To Enhance Security and Safety Act" was introduced by House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Don Young (R-Alas.) of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, and Chairman W.J. (Billy) Tauzin (R-La.) of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce as well as Tom Petri (R-Wis.), Joe Barton (R-Tex.), Gene Green (D-Tex.), Ralph Hall (D-TX), Max Sandlin (D-Tex.), and Brad Carson (D-Okla).

"While we now have to review the legislation, we are encouraged by the fact that the two chief House Committees with jurisdiction over this issue have united together to introduce a pipeline safety bill," said Jerald V. Halvorsen, president of the Interstate Natural Gas Association of America.

"This is an excellent step and a positive sign that the House will pass pipeline safety legislation early in the New Year," he added.

INGAA was one of five industry trade associations who have called on the US Congress to quickly pass "an effective and responsible" bill to promote the safety of more than 2 million miles of oil and gas pipelines (OGJ Online, Nov. 20, 2001).

The Senate passed pipeline safety legislation earlier this year, but the House has yet to act (OGJ Online, Oct. 1, 2001). Congress is on a month-long holiday break and will return in late January. Lobbyists said there is a chance pipeline safety proposals may be considered as part of broader energy legislation now pending. The Republican-controlled House passed a comprehensive energy bill in August; the Democratic-controlled Senate has not approved a bill yet although several proposals are pending.

In a letter to US Department of Transportation Sec. Norman Mineta, pipeline industry officials said they want Congress and DOT to work together in a "unified fashion."

In October the nonpartisan General Accounting Office warned Congress that the Department of Transportation's Office of Pipeline Safety still has not met some National Transportation Safety Board recommendations, several of which are a decade old.

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