INGAA: Congress on track to pass pipeline safety reauthorization

Congress is poised to pass legislation reauthorizing the federal pipeline safety act by yearend 2011, predicted the Interstate Natural Gas Association of America’s vice president for legislative affairs.

“It’s notable that this debate has been so bipartisan,” Martin E. Edwards told reporters during a Sept. 12 briefing. “The issue appears to be one of the few in this Congress attracting a high degree of cooperation.”

His observations came 4 days after the US House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee approved HR 2845, a pipeline safety bill that sponsors said would impose tougher penalties and improve operations. Edwards said that the next likely step will be for the House Energy and Commerce Committee to work on its own draft and seek a conference with the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee to formulate a final bill to send to the House floor.

That could press the Senate to clear the way for floor consideration there of its pipeline safety bill which cleared the Commerce Committee this summer and awaits unanimous consent, he continued.

Edwards noted Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Pa.), the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials Subcommittee Chairman who sponsored HR 2845, expressed frustration that Congress was delegating so much authority to regulatory agencies without providing a basic framework.

“A lot of stakeholders are pushing to get this done,” said Edwards. “It’s Congress’s opportunity to weigh in, instead of simply letting [the US Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration] move forward. It always makes more sense for Congress to establish primary policies on performance expectations and timelines.”

He wants Congress to address pipeline regulation in high-consequence areas in several ways. INGAA has committed to managing integrity management programs to 100% of US interstate gas systems by 2030, and would like to see it occur in a logical and organized manner that gets the most benefit for the effort, according to Edwards.

The association and its members hope to have IMPs in place in 70% of the high-consequence areas close to where people live by 2020, he said.

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com

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