Legislation from a bipartisan group of lawmakers reauthorized the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) through 2019 and takes new steps to cut down on spills and other problems with the pipeline network.
The Senate approved the bill unanimously Thursday.
“Every day across America, resources vital to our nation’s energy and economic security move through more than 2.5 million miles of pipeline,” said Sen. Deb Fischer (R-NE).
“For families, consumers, workers, and businesses across our nation, the safety and security of our extensive pipeline network must remain a top priority. The bill we passed today will enhance the safety of these pipelines through stronger congressional oversight and necessary improvements to PHMSA.”
Beyond reauthorizing PHMSA, the bill will direct the agency to prioritize its current regulatory agenda over new rulemaking. It calls for new mapping technology and safety programs for pipelines and gives the agency new hiring powers.
California’s two senators signed on as sponsors a few weeks ago when lawmakers included in the bill a working group to address a methane leak at a natural gas storage facility in Aliso Canyon, Calif. The group will report to Congress and recommend policies to keep similar leaks from happening again.
Lawmakers have criticized PHMSA for its slow regulatory process. Of the 42 rules mandated in a major 2011 pipeline safety law, the agency has completed 26.
Lawmakers looked to write a PHMSA reauthorization bill that gives the agency the flexibility to complete those outstanding regulations before focusing on other issues.