Congress Moves Toward Tougher Stand on Pipeline Safety, But is it Enough?
A bill to strengthen pipeline safety regulations passed the House and Senate last week and now awaits President Obama’s signature. But while many applaud Congress’s move toward more oversight, others question whether the impending law goes far enough to prevent oil and natural gas pipeline accidents.
The pipeline industry reports more than 100 significant hazardous liquid spills each year. (See a map of those spills). Every year, an average of 275 accidents kill 10 to 15 people and injure five to six times as many.
The “Pipeline Safety, Regulatory Certainty, and Job Creation Act of 2011” would double potential fines for violations (up to a max of $2 million), require automated shutoff valves for new and replaced pipelines, and hire 10 new safety inspectors to join the current 124.
“This is a huge step forward for the safety of America’s pipelines,” Senator Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ) said in a statement.
But as the Associated Press noted, the bill doesn’t implement several recommendations from a National Transportation Safety Board investigation of the natural gas pipeline explosion in San Bruno, California that killed eight people last September (the San Francisco Chronicle has a recent series on the disaster). One of those recommendations is that automated shutoff valves be installed on already existing pipelines (particularly old ones in highly populated areas, which are prone to accidents).