November 15, 2019

Committee Chairs DeFazio and Pallone Unveil Major Pipeline Bill That Will Help Combat Climate Change, Improve Public Safety, and Hold Operators Accountable for Egregious Violations

Washington, DC – Today, Chairman of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Peter DeFazio (D-OR), and Chairman of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce Frank Pallone Jr. (D-NJ) introduced the “Safe, Accountable, Fair, and Environmentally Responsible (SAFER) Pipelines Act of 2019.” This comprehensive pipeline safety legislation takes numerous steps to improve pipeline safety and address climate change by reducing emissions, preventing pipeline leaks, and holding pipeline operators accountable for reckless actions. The DeFazio-Pallone bill also reinstates a 2016 Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) final rule that set limitations on methane emissions across the natural gas and hazardous liquid pipeline sector.

The SAFER Pipelines Act of 2019 would make significant improvements to current law, including:

  • Requiring operators of gas pipeline facilities to use the best available technology to capture gas released when performing routine operations or maintenance;
  • Requiring automatic shutoff or remote-controlled valves on existing, new and replaced pipelines to mitigate the impact of incidents and protect first responders;
  • Requiring advanced leak-detection technology that can identify leak locations and amounts released on gas pipelines;
  • Increasing maximum civil penalties from $200,000 to $20 million per violation, allowing Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) to hold operators accountable for particularly egregious violations;
  • Strengthening criminal penalties for operators who act recklessly;
  • Requiring operators to immediately repair major gas leaks on their pipeline systems;
  • Directing PHMSA to finalize a rule on gas gathering lines; and
  • Directing the National Academy of Sciences to study how regulations could be strengthened to protect earthquake-prone areas from pipeline failures.

“There are nearly 3 million miles of pipelines transporting hazardous liquid and natural gas just feet below countless communities across the U.S., yet federal efforts to ensure these pipelines are safe, reliable and environmentally-sound are woefully outdated,” Chair DeFazio said. “And we have the numbers to back that up. Last year alone, there were 636 pipeline incidents that left eight people dead and injured another 90, including the horrific incident that killed one person, sent 21 others to the hospital, and damaged 131 structures in Merrimack Valley, Massachusetts. Moreover, it’s estimated that this industry is responsible for one-third of our country’s emissions of methane, a greenhouse gas that is 84 times more potent than carbon dioxide in the first few decades of its release and a major contributor to climate change. The legislation we are introducing today presents a significant opportunity to do better. We need pipeline operators to do their part to reduce methane emissions and prevent catastrophic leaks, and if they don’t, we can make sure they will be held accountable for putting our communities at risk and contributing to climate change.”

“This comprehensive legislation will help protect people, the environment and our climate from unsafe pipelines,” Chair Pallone said. “Pipelines should be the safest way to transport natural gas and oil, but they are not nearly as safe as they should be.  Despite the progress we’ve made on pipeline safety over the last 20 years, too much oil continues to spill into our environment, too many greenhouse gasses leak into our atmosphere and far too many people continue to die due to pipeline failures. Last month, the Keystone pipeline leaked nearly 400,000 gallons of oil onto farmland and wetlands.  This legislation rebalances the law in favor of people and the environment instead of corporations and profits.  It also helps protect our climate by reversing the Trump rollback of President Obama’s methane rules.  This is a bold bill that is necessary to make our pipelines safe and secure.” 

Read the bill text here.

Read a section-by-section here.