Thanks to Congressional action, Pennsylvanians can expect
increased pipeline safety. The Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and
Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) already has deemed pipelines
the safest medium of energy transport, confirmed by the Fraser Institute, but
Congress has continued to build out its pipeline safety systems.
Lumped into the billion dollar omnibus coronavirus bill last year was the
overlooked House Committee on Transportation & Infrastructure’s “Pipes Act of
2020.” Its stated objective “reauthorizes the U.S. Department of Transportation
Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) pipeline safety
program through fiscal 2023 and ensures that the millions of miles of pipelines
in the U.S. are safe, reliable, and environmentally sound.”
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Many of the new features included are worth specific attention.
A portion of the bill builds on the nation’s pipeline inspectors by increasing
the number of minimum inspections and enforcement personnel that conduct
inspections, investigations, and other safety activity almost 20%. All should
welcome more oversight and inspections.
Other provisions in the bill aim to improve gas distribution and gathering line
safety. Title II specifically addresses improving the distribution of integrity
management plans, and mandates that emergency response plans communicate more
thoroughly with local authorities. Similarly, the bill directs PHMSA to better
map and publish guidance on gas gathering lines.
Lastly, whistleblower protections were extended to
cover former employees while prohibiting employers from waiving
These protections build on the already strong foundation of safety
measures that has allowed the U.S. great success in becoming energy
secure while reliably delivering product across the country.
While Pennsylvania has benefited greatly from the thousands of jobs
and billions in tax revenue that the oil and gas industry has
created, the commonwealth remains way behind in the development of
necessary pipeline infrastructure. Yet projects like PennEast,
Adelphia Gateway and Mariner East continue to face regulatory delays
and challenges that prevent prosperity.
In America, safety measures are strong and resources are plentiful.
The United States and commonwealth of Pennsylvania continue to
position themselves to be energy powerhouses for decades to come,
with safety at the forefront.
Bill Godsey is owner and president of Geo Logic
Environmental Services and a former geologist for the Texas Railroad