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Public Statements

Pipeline Safety, Regulatory Certainty, and Job Creation Act of 2011

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. WAXMAN. Mr. Speaker, during the last year and a half, a series of tragic failures have made it clear that we need stronger pipeline safety laws. Pipeline failures have occurred all across the country. From California and Montana to Michigan and Pennsylvania, we've seen natural gas pipeline explosions and ruptured oil pipelines spilling oil into rivers.

In July 2010, a crude oil pipeline ruptured near Marshall, Michigan. Over 800,000 gallons of oil spilled into the Talmadge Creek and then flowed into the Kalamazoo River. The river is still being cleaned up.

In September 2010, a natural gas pipeline ruptured and exploded in San Bruno, California. Eight people died; many more were injured. The gas-fed inferno spread from house to house, driven by the wind. Thirty-eight homes were destroyed and 70 more were damaged. The explosion left behind a suburban street with a massive crater and burned-out vehicles. The vice chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board described it as ``an amazing scene of destruction.''

This past summer, an ExxonMobil pipeline ruptured in Montana, spilling crude oil into the Yellowstone River.

Unfortunately, those are just a few of the major accidents we have seen during the past 18 months. This bill will update and strengthen our pipeline safety laws in the aftermath of these tragedies.

In response to the Michigan spill, this bill requires pipeline operators to notify the safety agency of spills more quickly and establishes a process for leak detection standards to be issued for oil pipelines.

In response to the San Bruno tragedy, this bill requires key natural gas pipelines to have their maximum safe operating pressure confirmed through records or testing. It also instructs the safety agency to require the use of automatic or remote-controlled shutoff valves so that it doesn't take an hour and a half to stop the flow of gas like it did in San Bruno.

I want to acknowledge the work of my colleague from California, Representative Jackie Speier, who fought for a strong response to San Bruno, and this bill has been made a better bill by her contributions.

In light of the Yellowstone River spill, the bill requires the agency to review its regulations governing the safety of pipelines buried under rivers to ensure they are adequate. The bill includes a number of additional improvements to strengthen our pipeline safety laws.

This is a good bipartisan bill that has the support of both industry and safety advocates. The Energy and Commerce Committee and the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee have worked hard to develop a combined bill that would have broad support.

I would like to thank Chairmen Upton, Mica, and Shuster, as well as Mr. Dingell, Mr. Rush, Mr. Rahall, and Ms. Brown, for their work on this legislation. I encourage all of my colleagues to support this bipartisan legislation.


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