Former US House panel chairman blasts delays in new pipeline safety rules

Washington (Platts)--31Oct2013/332 pm EDT/1932 GMT


Nearly two years after President Barack Obama signed a new pipeline safety bill into law, the former chairman of the US House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee said new regulations are "taking far too long," and regulators may be unable to keep pace with pipeline growth.

In a letter sent to Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx on Wednesday, Representative John Dingell, Democrat-Michigan, wrote that a natural gas pipeline explosion in Rosston, Oklahoma, and an oil pipeline spill in North Dakota earlier this month underscored the need for the new regulations.

DOT has not issued any pipeline safety rulemakings since August 2011 when it announced it was reviewing natural gas transmission pipeline regulations, Dingell wrote.

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"As oil and gas exploration and production continue to grow in the Bakken, Marcellus, and Eagle Ford shale fields, more and more pipelines will be needed to take advantage of these domestic sources of energy," he wrote.

"The rapid growth of pipelines serving shale oil and gas production and the continued degradation of existing pipelines likely will outpace your department's ability to develop and oversee new and existing requirements," he added.

In January 2012, Obama signed the Pipeline Safety, Regulatory Certainty and Job Creation Act into law.

The new law, motivated largely by the 2010 pipeline explosion in San Bruno, California, which kill eight people and destroyed dozens of homes, expands DOT's pipeline safety review authority and calls for several new studies.

But, in his letter, Dingell argued that the department appears to have done little to meet the law's requirements and said it is unclear when new regulations on pipeline testing, data gathering and shut-off valves may be completed.

"The lack of action on this front is not only disturbing to a public that is concerned about the safety of our quickly growing system of pipelines, but it is also unsettling to the industry, which has no certainty as to what the rules will be going forward," Dingell wrote.

Dingell asked Foxx a series of questions on the status of these requirements in the letter and requested a response before the end of 2013.

A DOT spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday.

--Brian Scheid, brian.scheid@platts.com
--Edited by Keiron Greenhalgh, keiron.greenhalgh@platts.com

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