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Pallone Applauds Bipartisan Federal Pipeline Safety Standards Reauthorization

Jun 8, 2016
Press Release

Energy and Commerce Ranking Member Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) today gave the following statement during House Floor debate on S. 2276, the “Protecting our Infrastructure of Pipelines and Enhancing Safety (PIPES) Act of 2016.” Pallone was a key House Democratic negotiator of the bipartisan PIPES Act. A fact sheet outlining provisions in the bill is available here.

Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of the House Amendment to S. 2276, the Protecting our Infrastructure of Pipelines and Enhancing Safety Act of 2016, or the PIPES Act.  

The vast network of energy pipelines in this country are essentially out of sight, out of mind for most Americans.  But when something goes wrong, these facilities can make themselves known in devastating and sometimes deadly ways.  This is something both Rep. Capps and Rep. Sherman unfortunately have experienced since the start of this Congress.   My own district experienced the devastation of a pipeline failure in 1994 when a pipeline exploded in Edison, New Jersey destroying about 300 homes.  Ever since then, I have sought to make our nation’s pipelines safer by making the law and its regulator stronger. 

The legislation before us –while not the bill I would write as Chairman—is a good proposal that moves the ball forward on safety. It is the result of a number of weeks of bipartisan, bicameral negotiations and, while some compromises were made, this is a product that in many ways is greater than the sum of its parts.  I’m particularly pleased that it includes versions of important provisions authored by a number of Energy and Power Subcommittee Members, particularly Ms. Capps, Mr. Green, Mr. Engel, Mr. McNerney, Mr. Welch and Ranking Member Rush.

In particular, the House Amendment gives the Secretary of Transportation – for the first time ever –emergency order authority to address the threats to public health, safety and the environment posed by dangerous pipelines on a comprehensive, industry-wide basis.  It also changes the existing Pipeline Safety Information Grant program to help ensure adequate funding of pipeline safety technical assistance grants to communities and non-profit organizations.  I’m pleased that the legislation improves protection of coastal beaches and marine coastal waters – areas that are vital to my district and many others – by explicitly designating them as areas unusually sensitive to the environmental damage caused by pipeline failures.  It also contains a provision establishing a program for regulating underground natural gas storage facilities based upon language proposed by Mr. Sherman in the wake of the failure at the Aliso Canyon storage facility near his home.  Additionally, thanks to Mr. Green and Mr. Olson, it provides the Secretary with new tools to enhance efforts to hire pipeline safety personnel.

This was truly a bipartisan, bicameral, cooperative effort to craft the best legislation that we believed could pass in both chambers. I want to thank Chairman Shuster and Ranking Member DeFazio, as well as Senators Thune and Nelson, for working with Chairman Upton and me to produce a balanced bill that moves us forward on safety.   I urge its adoption.