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Public Statements

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

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. SHUSTER. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

This important legislation improves safety, enhances reliability, and provides the regulatory certainty necessary to create jobs.

I am very proud of the work that has gone into this bill, both across the aisle and between the committees. This legislation represents a bipartisan and bicameral agreement reached by the House Transportation Committee, the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee. I am also proud this legislation is supported by both the pipeline industry and key safety advocates.

The United States has the largest network of energy pipelines in the world, and pipelines are the energy lifelines that power nearly all of our daily activities. The hallmark of America's 2.5 million-mile pipeline network continues to be that it delivers extraordinary volumes of product reliably, safely, efficiently, and economically. Pipelines are the safest and the most cost-effective means to transport the natural gas and hazardous liquid products that fuel our economy. Since 1986, the volume of energy products transported through pipelines has increased by one-third, yet the number of reportable incidents has decreased by 28 percent. While the data show that Federal pipeline safety programs have been on the right track, recent pipeline incidents suggest there continues to be room for improvement.

H.R. 2845 builds on our strong commitment to the improved safety and enhanced reliability of the transportation of our Nation's energy products by pipeline.

Specifically, the legislation reauthorizes the Federal pipeline safety programs of the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration through FY 2015. It improves pipeline transportation by strengthening the enforcement of our current laws and by filling gaps in existing laws where necessary. It provides the regulatory certainty necessary for pipeline owners and operators to plan infrastructure investments and create jobs. It ensures a sensible and practical regulatory approach to improving safety that applies cost-benefit principles. It protects and preserves congressional authority, keeping regulators on a tight leash by ensuring certain key rulemakings are not finalized until Congress has an opportunity to act. It addresses National Transportation Safety Board recommendations resulting from recent pipeline incidents with balanced and reasonable responses, including addressing the incidents in California, Michigan, Montana, and Pennsylvania.

There are a few key priority issues I want to highlight in this legislation.

During my time in Congress, I've been disappointed to see the executive branch and unelected bureaucrats attempt to take more and more control and decisionmaking authority from Congress. These actions harm Congress as an institution and make our government further and further removed from the American people.

In this bill, when we call for substantial changes to the Federal pipeline safety program, we ask the administration to consider specific factors, take into account costs and benefits, and provide Congress with recommendations on how the programs should be changed. Congress will then have an opportunity to act on those recommendations before key rulemakings are finalized. This approach preserves congressional authority and will keep regulators from overreaching.

Another issue I've highlighted on the floor in the past is damage prevention, which is the leading cause of pipeline incidents. Our legislation improves pipeline damage prevention and cracks down on third-party pipeline damage by eliminating unnecessary exemptions.

At this time I would also like to urge everybody to call before you dig and to dial 8-1-1, which is an extremely important part of this program in preventing third-party damage in this country.

In field hearings leading up to the drafting of this legislation, my colleague from Pennsylvania, Jim Gerlach, suggested ways in which we could use State and local government personnel as force multipliers to supplement Federal pipeline safety inspectors. We have built on this idea. In this bill, we have included a provision that will allow PHMSA to provide training to State and local government personnel and to potentially establish regional training centers paid for by the pipeline industry at no cost to the Federal Government.

There is great interest in this unique and permissive approach in my home State of Pennsylvania, and I will closely be following the implementation of these provisions.

I was deeply disappointed that language I had included in our committee's version of this legislation regarding pipeline permitting issues was not included in the final bill. We have big issues with the Army Corps of Engineers in Pennsylvania in the permitting of pipes. The Corps is encroaching on the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, and it has led to significant increases in permitting timelines for projects with limited environmental impacts. My colleague from West Virginia, Mr. Rahall, has experienced similar issues in his home State, all related to the Marcellus shale gas. In the interest of compromise and of moving this legislation forward, I was willing to withdraw my language and settle on a study on this critical issue, but I will continue to monitor this issue closely in Pennsylvania and across the United States.

I am proud of this bill and of the hard work that Chairman Mica, Ranking Member Rahall, Subcommittee Ranking Member Brown, and the staffs have put in on both sides of the aisle. I would especially like to point out Jim Tymon and Steve Martinko, who have logged countless hours in helping to move this bill forward. I also want to thank the Energy and Commerce Committee, Chairman Fred Upton and Ranking Member Waxman, and their staffs for their efforts.

Our legislation makes a strong program even stronger by keeping in place regulatory measures that are working and by making adjustments to those that don't. I would urge all of my colleagues to support this important legislation that increases safety and creates jobs.

With that, I reserve the balance of my time.


Mr. SHUSTER. Mr. Speaker, at this time I would like to just note in the legislation, section 6 of H.R. 2845 includes a requirement that the Secretary of Transportation provide a person, upon written request, a copy of a pipeline company's response plan.

I think it's important to note and point out to my colleagues that these plans often contain security-sensitive information about pipelines' operating characteristics. If this information fell into the wrong hands, it could be a real threat to public safety. In recognition of this threat, we've included a provision that directs the Secretary to redact security-sensitive information.

It is my hope that the Secretary ensures that no security-sensitive information is released to the public; and the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee will aggressively oversee the implementation of this provision to ensure that it is being implemented according to congressional intent.

With that, I reserve the balance of my time.


Mr. SHUSTER. Mr. Speaker, I want to associate myself with the words of the gentleman from Washington. He is really one of the experts in Congress when it comes to pipeline safety, and it has been my pleasure to work with him on this bill.

As I said earlier, I'm very, very proud of the work that's gone into this bill on both sides of the aisle. This truly is a bipartisan agreement and a bicameral agreement, and I think we can all be proud of the product we've produced and look forward to it being passed into law, because pipelines are the safest way to move the gas and the hazardous products that this Nation needs to fuel the economy. And this important legislation does improve safety. It enhances the reliability and provides the regulatory certainty so that the owners and operators of pipelines will make the investments in their systems that will create jobs across America.

So I urge all my colleagues to support H.R. 2845; and with that, I yield back the balance of my time.


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