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Pipeline safety bill signed into law

By OGJ editors
WASHINGTON, DC, Dec. 19 -- US President George W. Bush signed into law an industry-supported pipeline safety bill that earlier passed Congress by a wide bipartisan margin (OGJ, Dec. 9, 2002, p 28).

The new law requires that all pipelines be inspected within the next 10 years to prevent leaks and ruptures. Pipelines in more urbanized areas are to be checked within the first 5 years of enactment. All pipelines must be re-inspected every 7 years following the first 10-year interval under the legislation. The law also reauthorizes the authority of the Department of Transportation's Office of Pipeline Safety and gives regulators more power.

Industry reaction
The pipeline safety measure "reassures those who live or work near pipelines, and all Americans, that the government and industry will be taking even greater steps to ensure their safety," said Ben Cooper, executive director of the Association of Oil Pipe Lines. "For years, our industry has been working with Congress to pass this legislation. Enactment has been a long time coming, but all those involved can take pride in helping to reach this day. We thank those members of Congress who sponsored and pushed for this legislation, and the president for his support of it."

The American Gas Association also praised the new law. "Gas utilities are prepared to meet the tough challenges that the pipeline safety bill will present over the next few years," said David N. Parker, president and CEO of AGA. "Safety and reliability are the guiding principles of every natural gas utility company in America," Parker said.

Looking ahead
At one point the measure was part of a much larger energy bill, but lawmakers eventually opted to vote on the pipeline plan separately to ensure its passage.

"The debate over pipeline safety reauthorization began nearly 3 years ago. Since that time, a pipeline safety reauthorization bill passed the Senate numerous times, failed in the House once, passed on another go-round, stalled in conference committee for several months and eventually was approved by both houses of Congress in November," said AGA in a note to reporters.

Broad energy legislative proposals may resurface when a new Republican-controlled Congress convenes Jan. 7. But some specific issues may be addressed outside a comprehensive bill.

Republican party leaders from oil-producing states, for example, are expected to consider some public land access issues, including possible leasing of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, under the budget process.

Meanwhile ethanol fuel subsidies may come under scrutiny as lawmakers look to address a looming revenue shortfall for domestic programs in the upcoming fiscal year.


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