Written by Shane Skelton, Aii Executive Director

Pipeline safety reauthorization legislation cleared another crucial hurdle on its way to the President’s desk on Wednesday when the U.S. House of Representatives (House) Committee on Energy & Commerce (Energy & Commerce) reported their version of the bill out of the full committee.

Energy & Commerce Markup:

The legislation approved by Energy & Commerce last Wednesday proposed certain changes to laws within PHMSA’s jurisdiction. Some significant provisions in the bill that deviate from current law, include:

–A legal reclassification of “the Great Lakes” and “coastal beaches” to afford these areas stronger protections;

–A new requirement that would highlight if and how new pipeline regulations were modified in response to the Office of Management & Budget’s Regulatory Impact Analysis, which includes a cost-benefit analysis; and

–Grants PHMSA “Emergency Order” authority under certain circumstances. This authority allows the agency to act unilaterally in implementing certain new regulations or safety standards without adhering to the statutorily required rule-making process in certain circumstances for limited amounts of time (a provision that is also included in the Transportation & Infrastructure bill).

The legislation also includes two provisions requiring government agencies to perform studies directed at improving pipeline safety. The first study requires an in-depth analysis of how new technology, including mobile devices, GPS enabled devices, and digital mapping can improve pipeline safety during excavation. The next study focuses on corrosion control for gas and hazardous liquid pipelines. More specifically, the study looks to identify common causes of corrosion, improved corrosion control techniques, and best practices in installation, operation and maintenance of pipelines to prevent corrosion.

State of Play:

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) saw its authorization expire at the end of September 2015. The agency continues to operate under funds provided through appropriations legislation. The U.S. Senate approved its version of PHMSA reauthorization on March 3rd. The process in the House is slightly more cumbersome as it relates to PHMSA since two separate committees share jurisdiction over the agency and its authorizing legislation. Jurisdiction in the House is shared between the House Committee on Transportation & Infrastructure (Transportation & Infrastructure) and Energy & Commerce.

Transportation & Infrastructure reported its version out of committee on April 20. Energy & Commerce and Transportation & Infrastructure will now need to reconcile, or merge, their respective versions of the legislation so the House can vote on a single bill. After the House agrees upon and passes a single piece of legislation, House and Senate negotiators will need to meet and reconcile, or merge, the two remaining bills and deliver one final identical product to each respective chamber for an up or down vote.