Keeping America's Pipelines Safe and Secure: Key Issues for Congress [December 13, 2010]   [open pdf - 361KB]

"Nearly half a million miles of pipeline transporting natural gas, oil, and other hazardous liquids crisscross the United States. While an efficient and fundamentally safe means of transport, many pipelines carry materials with the potential to cause public injury and environmental damage. The nation's pipeline networks are also widespread and vulnerable to accidents and terrorist attack. [...] The federal pipeline safety program was authorized through the fiscal year ending September 30, 2010, and is currently operating under a continuing resolution. S. 3856 would reauthorize the program through FY2014. Both the House and Senate versions of the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2011 (H.R. 5850 and S. 3644) would provide appropriations for the federal pipeline safety program for FY2011. The 111th Congress is considering new legislation to improve the safety and security of the U.S. pipeline network. H.R. 6008 would require pipeline operators to provide immediate telephonic notice of a pipeline release to federal emergency response officials and would increase civil penalties for pipeline safety violations. S. 3824 would increase the number of federal pipeline safety inspectors, would require automatic shutoff valves for natural gas pipelines, and would mandate internal inspections of transmission pipelines, among other provisions. S. 3856 would increase federal pipeline safety inspectors, would require automatic or remote controlled shutoff valves on new gas pipelines, would require public access to pipeline emergency response plans, and would increase civil penalties for pipeline safety violations, among other provisions. H.R. 6295 would require automatic or remote shut-off valves for many pipelines and public disclosure of pipeline locations, among other provisions. S. 1333 would change natural gas pipeline integrity assessment intervals. H.R. 2220 would mandate a new federal pipeline security study. As Congress debates reauthorization of the federal pipeline safety program and oversees the federal role in pipeline security, key questions may be raised concerning pipeline agency staff resources, automatic pipeline shutoff valves, penalties for pipeline safety violations, and the possible need for pipeline security regulations. In addition to these specific issues, Congress may wish to assess how the various elements of U.S. pipeline safety and security activity fit together in the nation's overall strategy to protect transportation infrastructure. Pipeline safety and security necessarily involve many groups: federal agencies, oil and gas pipeline associations, large and small pipeline operators, and local communities."

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CRS Report for Congress, R41536
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