Since the federal government in the United States is responsible for setting the minimum safety standards for all pipelines in this country, that puts the U.S. Congress in charge of these efforts. Congress writes the statutes which then PHMSA needs to turn into rules to implement the wishes of Congress. Every four years Congress reviews and then reauthorizes the national pipeline safety program, which is normally their main effort at reviewing the statutes. That began last year, and is set to finish up in 2016. The U.S. Senate Commerce and Science Committee held hearings and produced a reauthorization bill in late 2015. That bill with some amendments passed in the full Senate in early March and can be found here.
There are two committees in the U.S. House that have jurisdiction over pipeline safety. Both the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee (T&I), and the House Energy and Commerce Committee (E&C) held hearings on reauthorization in late February and early March. A subcommittee of E&C held a mark up on a proposed bill in March which was passed on to the full committee, and that proposed bill can be found here. In early April the House T&I Committee released a draft bill, which can be found here.
The Pipeline Safety Trust pays close attention to reauthorization and has been involved with all the bills mentioned, and have been invited to testify to these committee. Our testimony can be found here.
We have put together a document that compares what is included in the three different bills, talks briefly about our concerns, and shows which version of different efforts we think are the best for moving pipeline safety forward. This Bill Comparison document can be found here, and it will be updated as the different bills get amended and voted on. At some point this year the bill that was passed by the Senate, and the bills working their way through the House Committees, will have to be consolidated and agreed on as a single bill. Check this page for updates on that process.
Congressional efforts such as this reauthorization are difficult processes for the public to weigh in on, because they are constantly changing and there is not a clear timeline or contact for where to send comments. If your Congressional Representatives are on any of the committees mentioned above it makes sense to weigh in with them early in the process before bills get passed by those committees. After the committees pass bills, or if your representatives are not on those committees it is good to let your representatives know how you feel about any provisions of the bills you feel are really good, or that you have concerns with.
UPDATE 4/28/2016: Both House Committees have marked up bills and have passed out Manager’s amendments. The two committees will now try to reconcile their differences before the bills go to the House floor for a vote. If the House succeeds in passing out a bill, it will then be sent to conference committee with the Senate to reconcile any differences with the Senate bill. You can find our updated comparison chart at the link in the fourth paragraph of the original blog above.