Democrats and Republicans are working toward bipartisan legislation on pipeline safety
By Reps. Fred Upton (R-MI) and John Dingell (D-MI)
October 11, 2011
With the many challenges facing our nation, Americans are looking for bipartisan leadership in Washington. That is especially true here in Michigan, where unemployment has hovered above 10 percent for nearly three years and the recent economic downturn has further magnified problems for our state’s manufacturers and small businesses. People want their elected leaders to find common ground where they can, producing tangible results that will benefit our state and our nation.
Being from Michigan and as the current and former Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, we have both worked to put sound policy making and the interests of our state first. Not only can we get a lot more done in Congress when we reach across the political aisle, the end result is often much better. We have carried this philosophy to the House Energy and Commerce Committee, where we are now focused on legislation that will make vital, long-overdue improvements to our nation’s vast pipeline infrastructure. Pipeline safety is an important matter that transcends party politics and concerns every American, as an issue impacting innocent lives, property and our environment.
Our nation’s 2.5 million miles of pipeline infrastructure remain the safest and most effective mode of transporting essential energy resources throughout the United States. However, the multiple pipeline accidents witnessed over the past year show that current safety laws must be improved to prevent further catastrophe.
Pipeline safety is an issue that hits particularly close to home here in Michigan, given the Enbridge Energy pipeline rupture in 2010 in Calhoun County. That tragedy resulted in a spill of 20,000 barrels of oil into Talmadge Creek, a tributary of the Kalamazoo River. Over a year later, the cleanup and investigation of that disaster continues.
Our bipartisan legislation, the Pipeline Infrastructure and Community Protection Act of 2011, enhances current safety laws so similar incidents are not repeated. It also sets new requirements to ensure a faster, more effective response should spills occur. Finally, it increases penalties on pipeline operators to make certain taxpayers are not unfairly left holding the tab for cleanup and other costs. This approach works by providing increased safety while reducing redundant regulations and making the system fairer and more efficient for all stakeholders.
Our work here is not yet complete. Our bill shares similarities with bipartisan legislation awaiting action in the Senate, which is supported by nearly every member of that body. Our bill enjoys the support of industry and safety advocates. We think the Pipeline Infrastructure and Community Protection Act has all of the elements necessary to quickly move forward and become law with overwhelming support.
Technological advances in recent years have significantly increased our ability to access natural gas and natural gas liquids here at home; the Energy Information Administration projects that our production of these fuels will increase 25 percent by 2035. Energy demand continues to increase, and as we seek to responsibly meet that growing demand with our increased production, the importance of ensuring the safe transportation of those vital resources becomes even greater.
By working together, we will finally make long-overdue updates to our nation’s pipeline infrastructure. Our legislation can help lead the way for increased American energy production and improved public safety – proving that civility and commonsense legislation can trump partisan gridlock.
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