Legislation designed to improve pipeline safety and reduce emissions ended up introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives Friday.
In an effort to prevent pipeline leaks, hold pipeline operators accountable for reckless actions, and reinstate a 2016 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rule that sets limits on methane emissions across the sector, the Safe, Accountable, Fair, and Environmentally Responsible (SAFER) Pipelines Act of 2019, H.R. 5120, was introduced by U.S. Reps. Peter DeFazio (D-OR) and Frank Pallone (D-NJ).
“There are nearly 3 million miles of pipelines transporting hazardous liquid and natural gas just feet below countless communities across the U.S., yet federal efforts to ensure these pipelines are safe, reliable and environmentally sound are woefully outdated,” said DeFazio, chairman of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure.
“And we have the numbers to back that up. Last year alone, there were 636 pipeline incidents that left eight people dead and injured another 90, including the horrific incident that killed one person, sent 21 others to the hospital, and damaged 131 structures in Merrimack Valley, Massachusetts,” he added.
In addition, he added it’s estimated the industry is responsible for one-third of the nation’s methane emissions.
Specifically, the SAFER Pipelines act would require gas pipeline operators to use the best available technology to capture gas released when performing routine operations or maintenance. It would also require automatic shutoff or remote-controlled valves on existing, new and replaced pipelines as well as advanced leak-detection technology to identify leaks. Also, operators would have to immediately repair major gas leaks on their pipeline systems. Further, the bill would increase the minimum civil penalties from $200,000 to $20 million per violation and strengthen criminal penalties for operators who act recklessly.
“This comprehensive legislation will help protect people, the environment and our climate from unsafe pipelines,” Pallone, chair of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, said. “Pipelines should be the safest way to transport natural gas and oil, but they are not nearly as safe as they should be. Despite the progress we’ve made on pipeline safety over the last 20 years, too much oil continues to spill into our environment, too many greenhouse gasses leak into our atmosphere and far too many people continue to die due to pipeline failures. Last month, the Keystone pipeline leaked nearly 400,000 gallons of oil onto farmland and wetlands.”