Duly Noted . . .

Sen. Peters’ Pipeline Safety Bill signed into law

U.S. Senator Gary Peters (MI) applauds the unanimous passage in the Senate of the Protecting Our Infrastructure of Pipelines and Enhancing Safety (PIPES) Act to improve pipeline safety and oversight. Peters introduced the Senate version of the bipartisan legislation with Senators Deb Fischer (R-NE), Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Steve Daines (R-MT). The legislation unanimously passed the House of Representatives last week and President Obama signed it into law Wednesday.

“The Great Lakes play a central role in our state’s economy, environment, and way of life,” said Senator Peters, member of the Great Lakes Task Force. “We must ensure that the proper safety and oversight are in place to keep our people safe and our natural resources protected... [to]  help safeguard against the catastrophic consequences of an oil spill in our precious waterways.”

The PIPES Act includes several provisions and elements authored by Peters:

—Great Lakes are designated as a high consequence area. The PIPES Act designates the Great Lakes as an Unusually Sensitive Area, making pipelines in the Great Lakes subject to higher standards for operating safely. The bill also adds coastal beaches and marine coastal waters as areas that should be considered when making an “Unusually Sensitive” determination.

—Improves oil spill response plans to address ice cover. The bill requires PHMSA and pipeline operators to prepare response plans that address cleanup of an oil spill affecting waters or shorelines partially or entirely covered by ice. In recent winters, maximum ice coverage  has been well above normal levels. The Coast Guard has stated it does not have the technology or capacity for worst-case discharge cleanup under solid ice, and that its response activities are not adequate in ice-choked waters.

—Requires critical reviews of pipeline age and integrity and Government Accountability Office (GAO) reports on pipeline integrity management of natural gas and hazardous liquid pipelines, as well as a review of the risks posed by age, condition, materials and construction of a pipeline. These reports will help State and Federal regulators conduct better oversight of pipelines and recommend changes for pipeline safety and security.

The legislation reauthorizes PHMSA through 2019 and increases the authorized funding levels by 2% annually, and establishes emergency order authority so that PHMSA can take action to ensure safety when pipelines pose an imminent threat.

It includes additional measures to improve storage of hazardous materials, including directing the Dept. of Transportation to issue minimum safety standards for operation and integrity management of underground natural gas storage.