Keeping America's Pipelines Safe and Secure: Key Issues for Congress [July 11, 2011] [open pdf - 377KB]
"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. Recent pipeline accidents in Marshall, MI, San Bruno, CA, Allentown, PA, and Laurel, MT, have heightened congressional concern about pipeline risks. Both government and industry have taken numerous steps to improve pipeline safety and security over the last 10 years. While many stakeholders agree that federal pipeline safety programs have been on the right track, recent pipeline incidents suggest there continues to be room for improvement. Likewise, the threat of terrorist attack on U.S. pipelines remains a concern. […] 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, safety regulations for oil sands crudes, and the possible need for pipeline security regulations, among other concerns. 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. Reviewing how these groups work together to achieve common goals could be an oversight challenge for Congress."
CRS Report for Congress, R41536