A bipartisan effort to improve oil and gas industry safety concluded June 22 with President Obama signing a bill to reauthorize the Transportation Department’s Pipeline Hazardous Materials Safety Administration through 2019.
In addition to renewing the federal pipeline safety agency, the Protecting Our Infrastructure of Pipelines and Enhancing Safety Act (“PIPES Act”) of 2016 also introduces new safety and regulatory provisions aimed at preventing disasters like Southern California Gas (SoCalGas) Co.’s Aliso Canyon gas leak, which forced the evacuation of thousands of Porter Ranch residents while it blasted more than 100,000 metric tons of methane gas and 10 million tons of carbon dioxide into the air.
The PIPES Act also includes new provisions to address problems that have contributed to a spate of oil and gas disasters in recent years, including pipeline breaches and oil spills, faulty gas wells and leaks, and oil train derailments that have flooded land and waterways across the country with crude oil.
The measure also addresses 42 specific directives that were included in the previous 2011 reauthorization to improve pipeline safety, mandating they be completed. The agency has completed only half of these enhancements to date.
Also among the reforms and new tools the bill provides is the establishment of a task force comprised of PHMSA authorities, state officials, industry representatives, and safety group leaders, who will develop recommendations on improving communication, sharing information, and cooperation between groups to improve oil and gas industry safety.
“Every day, American families and businesses depend on safe and efficient energy transportation,” the House bill’s sponsors said in a statement. “The PIPES Act will ensure that our nation’s 2.6 million miles of pipelines continue to provide critical access to energy, and we are proud of the bipartisan work that made this effort a success.”