DOT Announces New Plan to Repair Aging Pipelines

Following several fatal pipeline accidents, including one that killed five people in Allentown, Pa., Ray LaHood called upon U.S. pipeline owners and operators to conduct a comprehensive review of their oil and gas pipelines to identify areas of high risk and accelerate critical repair and replacement work.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood Monday launched a national pipeline safety initiative to repair and replace aging pipelines to prevent potentially catastrophic incidents.

Following several fatal pipeline accidents, including one that killed five people in Allentown, Pa., LaHood called upon U.S. pipeline owners and operators to conduct a comprehensive review of their oil and gas pipelines to identify areas of high risk and accelerate critical repair and replacement work. LaHood also announced federal legislation aimed at strengthening oversight on pipeline safety, as well as plans to convene a Pipeline Safety Forum on April 18th in Washington, D.C., to gather state officials, industry leaders, and other pipeline safety stakeholders in order to discuss steps for improving the safety and efficiency of the nation’s pipeline infrastructure.

“People deserve to know that they can turn on the lights, the heat, or the stove without endangering their families and neighbors,” LaHood said. “The safety of the American public is my top priority and I am taking on this critical issue to avoid future tragedies we have seen in Allentown and around the country.”

LaHood was joined by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administrator Cynthia Quarterman, Pennsylvania Senator Bob Casey, Congressman Charlie Dent, and other federal, state and local officials to unveil the Department’s new pipeline safety action plan in Allentown.

Several other cities have also recently experienced pipeline incidents, including the environmentally devastating rupture in Marshall, Mich., and the deadly San Bruno, Calif., explosion which highlighted the need for pipeline operators to accelerate the repair, rehabilitation, and replacement of their highest risk lines.

“We must work together to develop a comprehensive solution to prevent these tragedies from happening,” said Quarterman said.

In a meeting in March, LaHood asked the CEOs of major pipeline companies around the country to conduct a comprehensive review of their pipeline systems to identify the highest risk pipelines and prioritize critical repair needs. LaHood said the Department would provide technical assistance in helping to identify high-risk pipelines.

LaHood also called on Congress to increase the maximum civil penalties for pipeline violations from $100,000 per day to $250,000 per day, and from $1 million for a series of violations to $2.5 million for a series of violations. He urged Congress to authorize the Department to close regulatory loopholes, strengthen risk management requirements, add more inspectors, and improve data reporting to help identify potential pipeline safety risks early.

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